The potential for self-seeding by the coral Pocillopora spp. In Moorea, French Polynesia
Coral reefs in Moorea, French Polynesia, suffered catastrophic coral mortality through predation by Acanthaster planci from 2006-2010, and Cyclone Oli in 2010, yet by 2015 some coral populations were approaching pre-disturbance sizes. Using long-term study plots, we quantified population dynamics of spawning Pocillopora spp. along the north shore of Moorea between 2010 and 2014, and considered evidence that population recovery could be supported by self-seeding. Results scaled up from study plots and settlement tiles suggest that the number of Pocillopora spp. colonies on the outer reef increased 1,890-fold between 2010 and 2014/2015, and in the back reef, 8-fold between 2010 and 2014/2015. Assuming that spawning Pocillopora spp. in Moorea release similar numbers of eggs as con-generics in Hawaii, and fertilization success is similar to other spawning corals, the capacity of Pocillopora spp. to produce larvae was estimated. These estimates suggest that Pocillopora spp. in Moorea produced a large excess of larvae in 2010 and 2014 relative to the number required to produce the recruits found in the back reef and outer reef in 2010 and 2014, even assuming that ~ 99.9% of the larvae do not recruit in Moorea. Less than a third of the recruits in one year would have to survive to produce the juvenile Pocillopora spp. found in the back and outer reefs in 2010 and 2014/2015. Our first order approximations reveal the potential for Pocillopora spp. on the north shore of Moorea to produce enough larvae to support local recruitment and population recovery following a catastrophic disturbance.