Last week, the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) was visited by Dr. Rodney V. Salm, the senior adviser of The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Pacific Division. During his time at PICRC, Dr. Salm worked with PICRC staff and interns to assess the resilience of the reefs around Palau.
Dr. Salm has worked in conservation for his entire professional life, but it wasn't until 1990, that he first witnessed coral bleaching and understood the enormous pressures coral reefs are faced with worldwide. It was during one of his earlier trip to Palau that Dr. Salm understood some corals, such as those found in Nikko Bay, have a higher resilience to these global threats. "I have observed that coral bleaching linked to warming seas was patchy. But it wasn't until I came to Palau in 1999 and saw great survival by corals in certain areas that I recognized the factors that helped corals survive ," Dr. Salm recalls. "Where strong currents mix the heated surface water, corals was protected from heat stress; where corals were deeply shaded, such as in part of the rock Islands, they were protected from the harmful effects of intense sun light that usually accompanies a bleaching event."
The resilience of a reef is measured by its ability to resist or recover from large disturbance, such as bleaching events and typhoons, and maintain its regular functions. Coral reef in Palau continue to bounce back after large disturbance and appears to be some of the most resilient reefs found in the world.
With ocean warming on the global scale, large disturbances will increase. It is critical researchers and policy makers understand why some coral communities are so much more resilient than others. These survivors are the natural refuges that helps the weaker reefs recover Focusing on the factors that contribute to resilient reefs may provide valuable insight that can contribute to global knowledge. Hopefully, through the protection and management of Palau's resilient reefs, these corals will continue to thrive and secure the future of Palau's coral reefs.