Responses of Coral Reef Fish to Changes in Coral Cover: French Polynesia
Holbrook, S.J., Schmitt, R.J. and Brooks, A.J. 2008. Resistance and resilience of a coral reef fish community to changes in coral cover. Marine Ecology Progress Series 371: 263-271.
Results indicated that "all measured attributes of the fish community were insensitive to changes in live coral cover over a wide range before falling sharply as live coral cover approached zero," and they determined "there was qualitative agreement in the pattern of abundance response of fish with variation in cover of live coral between the experiment and field surveys." More specifically, Holbrook et al. state that "the apparent tipping point for these attributes of the fish community occurred when cover of live coral fell below 5%."
"Taken together," as they describe it, "the results suggest that local fish assemblages could be resistant to variation in abundance of live coral, changing significantly only as coral becomes rare, while recovery may occur with only modest increases in live coral." Stated another way, the three researchers say that after a major disturbance, such as a bleaching episode, "the observed functional relationships in [their] study suggest that biodiversity, trophic structure, and overall abundance of fishes could essentially recover to their pre-disturbance states after only a modest return in the cover of living coral."