Coral reefs in remote or protected areas can recover quickly after mass coral bleaching events, new research shows.
University of Exeter researchers are investigating "reef carbonate budgets" -- the net production or erosion of reef structure over time.
To study the impacts of climate change on reef functions, they examined 12 reefs in the remote Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean before and after the global coral bleaching event in 2015/16.
In 2018, the formerly thriving reefs were "shrinking," with coral cover and carbonate production down by more than 70% and erosion processes exceeding new coral growth.
When the researchers returned in 2021, all reefs were on a trajectory of recovery, although the speed varied from place to place.
Where key coral species returned quickly and the underlying physical reef structure had stayed intact, reefs showed a rapid transition back to positive growth only six years after the bleaching event.
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