September 30, 2012
Written by Dr. Andy Bruckner
Life on a coral reef in French Polynesia can be extremely unforgiving. Natural factors, especially cyclones, crown of thorns seastar (COTS) outbreaks and coral bleaching events, have caused severe damage. Fortunately, because of the isolation and low human population density, human impacts are relatively low, except near a few urban areas.
French Polynesia is located within an area of unusually strong cyclone activity. For the first 80 years of the 20th century, Society Islands was not affected by a single cyclone. Shortly thereafter, in 1982, 7 major storms struck the region. Since then, there have been another 85 cyclones, mostly coming from the south. There was a lull in storm activity between 2003-2006, and then 2 cyclones hit in 2007. Most recently, Tropical Cyclone Oli hit French Polynesia on February 3, 2010.