PerspectiveEcology

How do coral reefs recover?

Science  22 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6199, pp. 879-880
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258556

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Summary

A key challenge for ecologists is to understand why ecosystems are being degraded and how to restore their natural structure and function. On page 892 of this issue, Dixson et al. (1) use an impressive series of experiments to determine whether chemical signals in seawater from corals and seaweeds affect the behavior and settlement choices of juvenile corals and fish. The results reveal the surprising ability of dispersing reef larvae to detect habitat quality under well-controlled conditions. However, differences with previous research suggest that we are a long way from understanding where this ability fits into the complex settlement process and what it means for reef restoration and recovery.