[Coral-List] video: RESILIENCE

Bruce Carlson exallias2 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 22 17:14:38 EST 2014

I have produced a brief 6-minute video highlighting some of the changes I have observed and recorded in photos and video over the past 40 years in Fiji.  I thought it might be of interest to those on this list:


To be honest, the changes on the Suva reef from coral to Sargassum are real, but the cause is largely “reasonable conjecture", i.e., the loss of herbivores.  The Sargassum “comes and goes” according to one researcher at the University of the South Pacific, but I know in the 1970’s it was not present in such quantity as it is now.  My photos from 1973 are the only record of what the reef once looked like.  It seems that no one living there today has any recollection of how nice it once was.

The coral bleaching sequence is much better documented and I hope the images will be of interest and value.  Some of you on this list may recall back in 2000 the flurry of emails initiated by Alan Strong who alerted us to the high risk of coral bleaching in Fiji.  At first, no on one Fiji noticed but then the reports came in quickly as the reefs started to turn white.  A number of us immediately set up transects.  Our collective data were published:

Cumming, R.L., M.A. Toscano, E.R. Lovell, B.A. Carlson, N.K. Dulvy, A. Hughes, J.F. Koven, N.J. Quinn, H.R. Sykes, O.J.S. Taylor, D. Vaughan.  Mass coral bleaching in the Fiji Islands, 2000.  Proc. 9ty Int. Coral Reef Symp., Bali, Indonesia 23-27 October, 2000, vol. 3, pp. 1161-1167.

I continued surveying my transects as often as I could (budget and sea conditions permitting) over the subsequent 10 years.  Fortunately, most of the reefs did recover after a decade and I highlight one of those transects in the video. 

One parameter that should be measured, but it never occurred to me at the time, was ambient sound.  I noticed how quiet the reef became in 2003 after the corals all died (listen when you watch the video).  Was this real or just an artifact of varying recording levels on my housing hydrophone?  I recommend that recording sound levels might be a useful “extra” measurement in the aftermath of severe bleaching events.  

Bruce Carlson

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