In the last 20 years, increases in the frequency, intensity, and distribution of disturbances affecting coral reefs have driven coral communities to a tipping point where losses of structure has led to decreased resilience and shifts in ecosystem assemblages. The island of Koh tao, in the western Gulf of Thailand, is subjected to very intense anthropogenic pressure with an economy solely relying on one of the world’s most thriving diving industry. The aim of our study was to analyse the data from a six year-long survey program of the state of the reefs around the island, in order to provide a baseline for future studies on the effectiveness of newly implemented Marine Protected Areas. We found that the sites previously classified as “low”, in terms of diving and fishing pressure, had overall higher growth form and generic diversity than “high” use sites. “Low” use sites were also dominated by branching Acropora while “high” use sites were dominated by Foliose Pavona. Massive growth forms were the most represented among all sites around the island suggesting some relatively high levels of disturbances. Yet, an analysis of the disturbances revealed that the threats were very site‐specific. Further studies are needed to develop a threat that will deepen our understanding of the drivers of Koh Tao’s coral reef community structure.
Special Topics Paper, James Cook University, Australia.