Events of mass coral bleaching and mortality have increased in recent decades worldwide, making coral recruitment more important than ever in sustaining coral-reef ecosystems and ensuring their resilience. During the last four decades, the coral reefs of Eilat have undergone severe deterioration due to both anthropogenic and natural causes. Recruitment failure has been frequently suggested as one of the main mechanisms underlying this deterioration. Here we assess the demographic replenishment and resilience potential of the local reefs, i.e., the potential for new sexually derived corals to recruit and exceed the community’s mortality rate. We present a detailed analysis of coral community demography, obtained by means of high-resolution photographic monitoring of permanently marked plots. Coral spats as small as 1 mm were documented and the detailed dynamics of coral recruitment and mortality were recorded, in addition to other common ecological measurements. The cumulative quantity of recruited individuals was twofold to fivefold higher than total mortality. The most significant predictor variable for coral recruitment among all ecological parameters measured was the available substrate for settlement, and the survival of recruited corals was correlated with reef structural complexity. Two consecutive annual reproductive seasons (June–September of each year) with high recruitment rates were monitored. Combined with the high survival of recruits and the increase in coral live cover and abundance, the findings from this study indicate an encouraging potential for recovery of these reefs.
- Coral reef
- Red Sea