The Resilience of Coral Reefs to Global Stressors
Sandin, S.A., Smith, J.E., DeMartini, E.E., Dinsdale, E.A., Donner, S.D., Friedlander, A.M., Konotchick, T., Malay, M., Maragos, J.E., Obura, D., Pantos, O., Paulay, G., Richie, M., Rohwer, F., Schroeder, R.E., Walsh, S., Jackson, J.B.C., Knowlton, N. and Sala, E. 2010. Baselines and degradation of coral reefs in the northern Line Islands. PLoS ONE 3: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001548.
On the uninhabited atolls, the nineteen researchers observed fish biomass and the proportion of apex predators "greater than previously described from any coral reef ecosystem," as well as "high cover of reef-building corals and crustose coralline algae, abundant coral recruits, and low levels of coral disease," noting that "uninhabited reefs appear to retain greater capacity to survive or recover from major episodes of coral disease or bleaching," whereas reefs with highly altered food webs "do not." Consequently, they say that the uninhabited atolls of the Line Islands "have remained remarkably intact in comparison to the global norm."
In light of their striking results, Sandin et al. conclude that "protection from overfishing and pollution appears to increase the resilience of reef ecosystems to the effects of global warming," which is essentially the position espoused by Idso et al. (2000), who concluded fully ten years ago that "increases in coral bleaching that may have occurred in response to periods of elevated water temperature over the past two decades have only occurred because of a long-term weakening of coral resistance to thermal stress caused by the gradual intensification of a multitude of local anthropogenic assaults upon the watery environments in which corals live."
Idso, S.B., Idso, C.D. and Idso, K.E. 2000. CO2, global warming and coral reefs: Prospects for the future. Technology 75S: 71-93.