Coral recovery may not herald the return of fishes on damaged coral reefs

David R. Bellwood, Andrew Hamilton Baird, Martial R. Depczynski, Alonso González-Cabello, Andrew Hoey, Carine D. Lefévre, Jennifer K. Tanner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The dynamic nature of coral reefs offers a rare opportunity to examine the response of ecosystems to disruption due to climate change. In 1998, the Great Barrier Reef experienced widespread coral bleaching and mortality. As a result, cryptobenthic fish assemblages underwent a dramatic phase-shift. Thirteen years, and up to 96 fish generations later, the cryptobenthic fish assemblage has not returned to its pre-bleach configuration. This is despite coral abundances returning to, or exceeding, pre-bleach values. The post-bleach fish assemblage exhibits no evidence of recovery. If these short-lived fish species are a model for their longer-lived counterparts, they suggest that (1) the full effects of the 1998 bleaching event on long-lived fish populations have yet to be seen, (2) it may take decades, or more, before recovery or regeneration of these long-lived species will begin, and (3) fish assemblages may not recover to their previous composition despite the return of corals. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-573
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 25 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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