Understanding the impact of the cyclone Ita on coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef: novel approaches for broad scale underwater surveys.

Coral reef rapid declines strongly influence coastal communities that relay on the good and services they provide. The 48 % in coral decline in the Great Barrier Reef in the last decade is attributed to cyclones, which may combine to other stressors to magnify the rate of declines. The stochastic nature of cyclone occurrence, the amounts of biological and geomorphological factors involved and spatial heterogeneity make the understanding of impact of cyclones on coral reef largely unpredictable. We implemented novel methodologies for broad scale benthic survey with centimeter resolution, which help to overcome spatial heterogeneity. Moreover the use of outputs of a wave model as benthic change explanatory variables simplified the analysis by assuming other factors' variability. Using cyclone Ita, a category 5 cyclone, we measured the error of the technique, described patterns of disturbance, patterns of benthic change and related the later with wave action . Results highlighted that the technique exhibit a high reliability, benthic change models can be explained with maximum wave and communities were both widely and deeply perturbed by Ita, albeit heterogeneously impacted. Therefore resilience of several reefs may be seriously damaged whether their adaptive capacity to withstand cyclone impacts were undermined for chronic stressors.

ISCED Categories

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0511 - Biology", "0521 - Ecology", "0532 - Physical and chemical oceanography