October 8, 2012
Written by Alex Dempsey
For the last week, the Global Reef Expedition scientists have been diving and surveying the leeward side of fore reefs around Raiatea, French Polynesia, focusing their efforts on the reef slope. This particular reef community changes its structure along a depth gradient resulting in drastically different landscapes at 30 meters, 15 meters, and 5 meters.
The shallowest community has the most coral colonies, and coral recruits are abundant here. Recruits are young colonies entering the adult population after having settled and metamorphosed from a larva to a polyp. Recruitment plays a critical role in maintaining resilience of coral populations. Without it, the communities cannot be repopulated following a major disturbance (e.g. extreme sea surface temperatures, a hurricane, or a ship grounding).