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Journal Articles Coral Reefs Year : 2010

Cyclone effects on coral reef habitats in New Caledonia (South Pacific)

N. Guillemot
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Pascale Chabanet
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Olivier Le Pape


The impacts of the unusually strong Cyclone Erica (March 2003) on coral reef habitats at a site located on the northwest coast of New Caledonia (South Pacific) were assessed using a 6-year data set (2002-2007). We examined the interannual variationsof key variables describing reef habitats (live hard and soft corals, dead corals in place, coral debris, algae and relative proportion of mechanically vulnerable and resistant live hard corals). The cyclone-induced disturbances of habitats differed according to three reef types: patch reefs, barrier reefs far from passes (more than 3 km from the nearest pass) and barrier reefs near passes (less than 3 km from the nearest pass). Short-term mechanical damage was detected on the three-dimensional structure of reef habitats with a notable shift from a community dominated by mechanically vulnerable corals to one dominated by resistant corals on barrier reefs far from passes. The history of habitats and their pre-disturbance characteristics, in link with local hydrodynamics, was found to influence their short-term susceptibility to extreme events such as cyclones. However, the most significant effects appeared in the midterm (within 2 years after the cyclone) as the cover of live hard corals significantly decreased by approximately 45% between 2002 and 2004 on all reef types. The short- and midterm disturbances of coral reef habitats are discussed with regard to published temporal variations in reef fish assemblages, underlining the delayed effects of this cyclonic event on fish as well as benthic habitats. Coral reef habitats and live corals had shown significant patterns of recovery 4 years after the cyclone, followed by similar recovery in fish community, suggesting good resilience in a face of this major natural disturbance in an area under moderate anthropogenic pressure.

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hal-00729472 , version 1 (07-09-2012)



N. Guillemot, Pascale Chabanet, Olivier Le Pape. Cyclone effects on coral reef habitats in New Caledonia (South Pacific). Coral Reefs, 2010, 29 (2), pp.445-453. ⟨10.1007/s00338-010-0587-4⟩. ⟨hal-00729472⟩
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