Oceans and Coasts

Reef and reef fish responses to climate change induced disturbances

Team members: Mayukh Dey, Wenzel Pinto, Rohan Arthur, Teresa Alcovero, Mayuresh Gangal, Elrika D’souza

Project timeline: 1998 - present


The onset of the 21st Century marked the global oceans with a devastating phenomena of a mass bleaching event. Elevated temperatures due to global warming have stressed coral reefs around the world to the point of functional collapse. Coral reefs are equivalent to the rainforests on the terrestrial realm and have a disproportionate role in shaping their regional environment. Countless human societies have been able to settle and prosper along coastal regions and oceanic atolls due to the various regulatory and provisioning services reefs provide. Therefore, a ratcheting down of the integrity of coral reefs due to climate change is a cause of concern around the world.

Corals and associated reef fish have seen a dramatic decline after a bleaching event, however, their trajectories of recovery are anything but simple. Our monitoring effort which began in 1998, has been steadily documenting the consequences of such global disturbances events on the coral reefs in Lakshadweep. Since its inception, the monitoring effort has documented 3 mass bleaching events, their  effects on corals, and coral reef fish, their concurrent recovery patterns and the implications these patterns have on the functioning of a reef.

Our long term monitoring programme has been the foundation for most of our reef related projects. As the years progressed, our observations on how coral reefs behave in light of climate change have spurred inevitable questions of understanding the mechanism that drives these patterns and observations. From studying the role of coral recruits in colonizing barren patches of reefs to quantifying the role of  herbivorous fish in mediating coral recovery, each component has furthered our understanding of ecological mechanisms that are play within the reefs of Lakshadweep.

Now, at the cusp of a quarter of a century of monitoring the reefs of Lakshadweep, we revists our effort and try to describe the pattern of how the reefs in Lakshadweep have behaved and which processes seem play an important role in mediating recovery and resistance in reefs.