- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Coral reefs are among the most diverse and complex ecosystems in the world that provide important ecological and economical services. Increases in sea surface temperature linked to global climate change threatens these ecosystems by inducing coral bleaching. However, it is not fully known if natural intra- or inter-annual physiological variability is linked to bleaching resilience or recovery capacity of corals. Here, we monitored the coral physiology of three common Caribbean species ( Porites divaricata, Porites astreoides, Orbicella faveolata ) at six time points over 2 years by measuring the following traits: calcification, biomass, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, chlorophyll a , algal endosymbiont density, stable carbon isotopes of the host and endosymbiotic algae, and the stable carbon and oxygen isotopes of the skeleton. The overall physiological profile of all three species varied over time and that of P. divaricata was consistently different from the two other coral species. Porites divaricata had higher energy reserves coupled with higher contributions of heterotrophically derived carbon to host tissues than both P. astreoides and O. faveolata . Consistently higher overall energy reserves and heterotrophic contributions to tissues appear to buffer against environmental stress, including bleaching events. Thus, natural physiological variability among coral species appears to be a stronger predictor of coral bleaching resilience than intra- or inter-annual physiological variability within a coral species.more » « less
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Mass thermal bleaching events are a primary threat to coral reefs, yet the sublethal impacts, particularly on energetics and reproduction, are poorly characterized. Given that the persistence of coral populations is contingent upon the reproduction of individuals that survive disturbances, there is an urgent need to understand the sublethal effects of bleaching on reproductive output to accurately predict coral recovery rates. In 2019, the French Polynesian island of Mo’orea experienced a severe mass bleaching event accompanied by widespread coral mortality. At the most heavily impacted sites, we observed
Acropora hyacinthusindividuals that were resistant to bleaching, alongside colonies that bleached but showed signs of symbiont recovery shortly after the bleaching event. We collected fragments from A. hyacinthuscolonies five months post-bleaching and, using energetic assays and histological measurements, examined the physiological and reproductive consequences of these two distinct heat stress responses. Despite healthy appearances in both resistant and recovered corals, we found that recovered colonies had significantly reduced energy reserves compared to resistant colonies. In addition, we detected compound effects of stress on reproduction: recovered colonies displayed both a lower probability of containing gametes and lower fecundity per polyp. Our results indicate that bleaching inflicts an energetic constraint on the concurrent re-accumulation of energy reserves and development of reproductive material, with decreased reproductive potential of survivors possibly hampering overall reef resilience. These findings highlight the presence of intraspecific responses to bleaching and the importance of considering multiple trajectories for individual species when predicting population recovery following disturbance.
Identifying which factors lead to coral bleaching resistance is a priority given the global decline of coral reefs with ocean warming. During the second year of back‐to‐back bleaching events in the Florida Keys in 2014 and 2015, we characterized key environmental and biological factors associated with bleaching resilience in the threatened reef‐building coral
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Anthropogenic climate change compromises reef growth as a result of increasing temperatures and ocean acidification. Scleractinian corals vary in their sensitivity to these variables, suggesting species composition will influence how reef communities respond to future climate change. Because data are lacking for many species, most studies that model future reef growth rely on uniform scleractinian calcification sensitivities to temperature and ocean acidification. To address this knowledge gap, calcification of twelve common and understudied Caribbean coral species was measured for two months under crossed temperatures (27, 30.3 °C) and
CO2partial pressures ( 2) (400, 900, 1300 μatm). Mixed‐effects models of calcification for each species were then used to project community‐level scleractinian calcification using Florida Keys reef composition data and pCO IPCC AR5 ensemble climate model data. Three of the four most abundant species, Orbicella faveolata, Montastraea cavernosa,and Porites astreoides, had negative calcification responses to both elevated temperature and 2. In the business‐as‐usual pCO CO2emissions scenario, reefs with high abundances of these species had projected end‐of‐century declines in scleractinian calcification of >50% relative to present‐day rates. Siderastrea siderea, the other most common species, was insensitive to both temperature and 2within the levels tested here. Reefs dominated by this species had the most stable end‐of‐century growth. Under more optimistic scenarios of reduced pCO CO2emissions, calcification rates throughout the Florida Keys declined <20% by 2100. Under the most extreme emissions scenario, projected declines were highly variable among reefs, ranging 10–100%. Without considering bleaching, reef growth will likely decline on most reefs, especially where resistant species like S. sidereaare not already dominant. This study demonstrates how species composition influences reef community responses to climate change and how reduced CO2emissions can limit future declines in reef calcification.