Dataset: Decadal changes in turbid-water coral communities at Pandora Reef, Great Barrier Reef


The extent to which short-term 'losers' (vulnerable to episodic disturbances) can continue to re-establish themselves was examined at Pandora Reef, an inshore shallow turbid-water patch reef. Coral community changes were followed in sites chosen to maximise the range of depth, shelter and species composition represented at Pandora Reef.

Data was collected in 1981, 1985, 1991, 1997, 2001 and 2005 from 7 long-term monitoring sites, 4 photo quadrats and 3 sets of video transects (from 1991), which were established on the reef.

Photo transects (9 cells in each transect grid) were set up on both the fore- (P1, P2) and back-reefs (P3, P4). In each cell the number of each species was recorded and then assigned to its broader taxonomic group (hard coral, algae, and soft coral) as a total. Benthic cover of each taxonomic group was assessed in 10% increments, and any difference (plus or minus) calculated.

Video survey transects (250 m long, made up of five 50 m sub-transects) were carried out on sections of the reef reflecting exposure scales: most sheltered (V1), intermediate shelter (V2), and most wave-exposed (V3). In the laboratory, 5 fixed points were sampled at 40 paused positions separated by a fixed time interval, giving a total of 200 points per sub-transect. In V3 where the transect wraps around the reef's northeast corner, the fifth sub-transect (t5) is characterised separately from the rest (t1-4).

Pulse disturbances potentially affecting Pandora Reef were: cyclones (Gertie, 1971; Althea, 1971; Dawn 1977; Keith, 1979; Sadie 1994; Justin, 1997; Tessie, 2000); floods (Burdekin River, 1974, 1991); and heated periods (1973, 1987, 1998, 2002).

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