Long-term observations and study of coral reef destruction by hurricanes in the Florida Keys show, surprisingly, that although corals are devastated on a grand scale during storms, recovery is rapid. Recovery occurs because of the widespread scattering of live fragments, many of which become growth sites of new colonies. Reef recovery from death by chilling in the Persian Gulf was well under way when last observed, but it is not yet known if the recovery rate was as rapid as recovery from the storm destruction in Florida. Recovery from death by chilling requires settlement of transported coral larvae and a substrate suitable for larval attachment. Such resettlement is subject to the effects of currents, predators, pollution, and competition for substrate. A growth rate of 10 cm per year combined with geometrical progression of branch formation accounts for rapid recovery. Although calculated coral proliferation seems unusually high, it has been confirmed by serial underwater photographs spanning ten years. More precise measurements of growth and branching are needed, along with growth data for other common reef-building corals. Such data would be useful for predicting standing crop of a restocked or transplanted reef.
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Coral reef recovery in Florida and the Persian Gulf