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Scientists say coral reefs on a tiny island in the South Pacific have shown incredible resilience and recovery from a recent but very severe disturbance: a volcanic eruption that created a new island.
Hunga Tonga—Hunga Ha'apai was (until October this year) the newest island on Earth. It was a result of a massive 2015 volcanic eruption in the middle of the South Pacific that, over a period of two weeks, created a new island more than 200 metres high.
Author - Patrick - Smallhorn-West - Candidate - ARC
Lead author Patrick Smallhorn-West is a Ph.D. candidate at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (Coral CoE at JCU) and a National Geographic Explorer. He and a team of scientists surveyed the effects of the eruption on the coral reefs around the island.
"Coral reefs are increasingly compromised by multiple stressors, even in the most remote locations," Mr Smallhorn-West said.
Disturbances - Eruptions - Reef - Ecosystems - Opportunities
"While severe disturbances, such as volcanic eruptions, can annihilate entire reef ecosystems, they can also provide unique opportunities to examine ecosystem resilience and recovery."
"We wanted to see what happens to a coral reef when it experiences the worst of the worst. Not much is as bad as a massive volcanic eruption, short of things such as nuclear testing at places like Bikini Atoll. This event allowed us to document not only how reefs were affected by a massive disturbance, but also how they recovered."
Co-author - Dr - Tom - Bridge - Coral
Co-author Dr. Tom Bridge, also from Coral CoE at JCU and the Queensland Museum, says the reefs were surveyed not only to examine the effects of the eruption, but also to understand how new reefs began forming on the new habitat.
The team also included researchers from the NASA Goddard Space Institute who helped piece together the environmental conditions that were present at the time of the eruption.
Dr - Jim - Garvin - Scientist - NASA
Dr. Jim Garvin, chief scientist from the NASA Goddard...
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