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Published on Oct 12, 2012
In June 2012, the Global Reef Expedition visited the Galápagos Islands, a unique oceanic location considered to be a living laboratory of evolution. The 19 islands and surrounding waters are characterized by fragmented, isolated landscapes, a high numbers of species found nowhere else in the world, and dramatically variable climatic conditions.
During the 1982-83 El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, most of the coral reefs died and the framework disintegrated to rubble and sand. Remarkably, the reef systems have shown unusually high resilience, rebounding from this catastrophe, with only minimal subsequent damage from the 1997-98 ENSO event. Our research in the Galápagos will help determine what makes these reefs so resilient, and whether they are likely to survive future climate change perturbations.