Natural disasters can devastate a region, abruptly killing the species that form an ecosystem’s structure. But how this transpires can influence recovery. While fires scorch the landscape to the ground, a heatwave leaves an army of wooden staves in its wake. Storm surges and coral bleaching do something similar underwater.
UC Santa Barbara scientists investigated how these two kinds of disturbances might affect coral reefs. They found that coral struggles more to recover from bleaching than from storms, even when mortality was similar between the two events. The skeletons left behind after bleaching appear to offer protection to algae, which then edge out the slow-growing coral. The study, led by doctoral student Kai Kopecky, appears in the journal Ecology