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Most coral reefs are in a degraded state because of human activities, and it seems unlikely that truly pristine reefs remain. There is, however, considerable variation in contemporary reef state at multiple spatial scales. Coral reef degradation often manifests itself as loss of coral cover, reduced structural complexity, lower diversity and as shifts in community structure. Nonetheless, even in highly degraded areas it is possible to find reef areas that have maintained ecological structure and function (i.e., “oasis” reefs). Using a standard measure of deviation from the population mean (z-scores), we define an oasis reef as a site that has consistently maintained high z-scores for key state variables (e.g., coral cover, diversity, etc.) at both a local and a regional scale. We propose three pathways that lead to a reef becoming an oasis: by escaping (e.g., refugia sites), by resisting (e.g., via acclimatisation) or by recovering following disturbances. We compiled a database of benthic community structure coupled with biological and physical data from >200 coral reef sites throughout the tropics between 1987 and 2015. We found that oasis reefs occur at multiple scales and in locations that are both heavily disturbed and isolated from human impacts, demonstrating the importance of local conditions in determining reef state. To improve understanding of the mechanisms underlying spatial heterogeneity in reef condition, we are determining the most common type of oasis (i.e., escape, resist or recover) and identifying the biophysical parameters that characterise oasis reefs.


Guest, J. R., University of Hawaii, USA,

Edmunds, P. J., California State University Northridge, USA,

Kuffner, I. B., USGS, USA,

Andersson, A. J., UC San Diego, USA,

Barnes, B. B., University of South Florida, USA,

Chollett, I., Smithsonian/UC Davis, USA,

Elahi, R., Stanford University, USA,

Gross, K., North Carolina State University, USA,

Lenz, E. A., University of Hawaii, USA,

Mitarai, S., Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan,

Mumby, P. J., University of Queensland, Australia,

Nelson, H. R., California State University Northridge, USA,

Parker, B. A., NOAA, USA,

Putnam, H. M., University of Rhode Island, USA,

Rogers, C. S., USGS, U.S. Virgin Islands,

Toth, L. T., USGS, USA,

Gates, R. D., University of Hawaii, USA,


Oral presentation

Session #:067
Date: 03/02/2017
Time: 14:30
Location: 323 A

Presentation is given by student: No