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Diversity 2011, 3(4), 628-640; doi:10.3390/d3040628

Resilience of Florida Keys Coral Communities Following Large-Scale Disturbances

1 Gulf Ecology Division, US Environmental Protection Agency, 1 Sabine Island Dr., Gulf Breeze, FL 32561, USA 2 Perry Institute for Marine Science, Suite 202, 100 N US Hwy. 1, Jupiter, FL 33477, USA 3 Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Upper Keys Office, MM 95, 230 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037, USA 4 Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive MSN5F2, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 2 August 2011 / Revised: 15 September 2011 / Accepted: 22 September 2011 / Published: 3 October 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Coral Reef Diversity: Climate Change and Coral Reef Degradation)
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The decline of coral reefs in the Caribbean over the last 40 years has been attributed to multiple chronic stressors and episodic large-scale disturbances. This study assessed the resilience of coral communities in two different regions of the Florida Keys reef system between 1998 and 2002 following hurricane impacts and coral bleaching in 1998. Resilience was assessed from changes in coral abundance, diversity, disease, and bleaching prevalence in reefs near the remote off-shore islands of the Dry Tortugas compared to reefs near Key West, a center of high population density and anthropogenic influences. During the first assessment in spring 1998, Key West and Dry Tortugas coral communities had similar abundance, species diversity, and disease prevalence. Bleaching and disease significantly increased in all reef areas during the summer 1998 El Niño event, with Key West reefs exhibiting higher bleaching and disease prevalence and severity compared to Dry Tortugas. Acroporids and total coral abundance significantly declined in both regions during 1998 following mass-coral bleaching and hurricane impact, but remained reduced only on Key West reefs during the 5-year assessment. These results provide additional evidence that coral reef systems distant from anthropogenic influences may have greater resilience to large-scale disturbances.
Keywords: coral resilience; coral condition; coral disease; Florida Keys; Dry Tortugas; coral bleaching coral resilience; coral condition; coral disease; Florida Keys; Dry Tortugas; coral bleaching
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Santavy, D.L.; Mueller, E.M.; MacLaughlin, L.; Peters, E.C.; Quarles, R.L.; Barron, M.G. Resilience of Florida Keys Coral Communities Following Large-Scale Disturbances. Diversity 2011, 3, 628-640.

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