Site: Moorea Coral Reef LTER

Credit: MCR LTER

Reefs worldwide have abruptly and increasingly shifted from coral to seaweed dominated communities. Experiments at MCR LTER revealed that a large disturbance can cause a coral reef to flip to seaweeds indefinitely. Experiments and models showed that multiple stable states (e.g. corals or seaweeds) can continue to thrive under the same levels of herbivory. They also discovered that the seaweed state is stabilized by the development of structural and chemical defenses that reduce the palatability of mature (but not juvenile) algae.