Over the past decades there has been an increasing awareness of community structure and dynamics in eastern Pacific coral reef systems, yet the processes producing these patterns are poorly known. We conducted a quantitative analysis of patterns of sexual and asexual recruitment through fragmentation at six localities in Huatulco, Me´xico. Between January 2001 and January 2002, sexual recruitment was evaluated by using terracotta tiles. Fragmentation was addressed twice using quadrats. Two hundred ninety-two corals (291 Porites panamensis Verrill, 1 Pocillopora sp.) were recruited to the settlement tiles. Changes in abundance of recruits among sites were determined by coral cover of P. panamensis at each area. Fragmentation was restricted to Pocillopora spp., and processes producing fragments had no connection with those promoting their reattachment and survival. Sexual and asexual recruitment patterns and potential survival asymmetries displayed by P. panamensis and Pocillopora spp. in the area are of capital importance in the occurrence of local communities and potentially of those of the entire eastern Pacific region. Sexual and asexual recruitment patterns suggest that recovery of frame-building corals following disturbance is highly species-specific. Recovery of P. panamensis following coral removal can be relatively fast, but greatly prolonged for Pocillopora; however, in communities with low to moderate disturbance where patches of Pocillopora were preserved reef recovery can proceed at a moderate to relatively fast pace following disturbance. Coordinated multidisciplinary and interinstitutional efforts, including genetic, histological, and ecological approaches, are necessary to determine unequivocally the processes controlling community structure and dynamics in the area.


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pp. 355-369
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