- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Frontiers in Marine Science
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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null (Ed.)Mass bleaching events are predicted to occur annually later this century. Nevertheless, it remains unknown whether corals will be able to recover between annual bleaching events. Using a combined tank and field experiment, we simulated annual bleaching by exposing three Caribbean coral species ( Porites divaricata , Porites astreoides and Orbicella faveolata ) to elevated temperatures for 2.5 weeks in 2 consecutive years. The impact of annual bleaching stress on chlorophyll a , energy reserves, calcification, and tissue C and N isotopes was assessed immediately after the second bleaching and after both short- and long-term recovery on the reef (1.5 and 11 months, respectively). While P. divaricata and O. faveolata were able to recover from repeat bleaching within 1 year, P. astreoides experienced cumulative damage that prevented full recovery within this time frame, suggesting that repeat bleaching had diminished its recovery capacity. Specifically, P. astreoides was not able to recover protein and carbohydrate concentrations. As energy reserves promote bleaching resistance, failure to recover from annual bleaching within 1 year will likely result in the future demise of heat-sensitive coral species.more » « less
Global warming is causing an unprecedented loss of species and habitats worldwide. This is particularly apparent for tropical coral reefs, with an increasing number of reefs experiencing mass bleaching and mortality on an annual basis. As such, there is a growing need for a standardized experimental approach to rapidly assess the thermal limits of corals and predict the survival of coral species across reefs and regions. Using a portable experimental system, the Coral Bleaching Automated Stress System (CBASS), we conducted standardized 18 h acute thermal stress assays to quantitively determine the upper thermal limits of four coral species across the length of the Red Sea coastline, from the Gulf of Aqaba (GoA) to Djibouti (~ 2100 km). We measured dark-acclimated photosynthetic efficiency (
F v /F m), algal symbiont density, chlorophyll a, and visual bleaching intensity following heat stress. F v /F mwas the most precise response variable assessed, advancing the F v /F meffective dose 50 (ED50, i.e., the temperature at which 50% of the initial F v /F mis measured) as an empirically derived proxy for thermal tolerance. ED50 thermal thresholds from the central/southern Red Sea and Djibouti populations were consistently higher for Acropora hemprichii, Pocillopora verrucosa,and Stylophora pistillata(0.1–1.8 °C above GoA corals, respectively), in line with prevailing warmer maximum monthly means (MMMs), though were lower than GoA corals relative to site MMMs (1.5–3.0 °C). P. verrucosahad the lowest thresholds overall. Despite coming from the hottest site, thresholds were lowest for Porites lobatain the southern Red Sea, suggesting long-term physiological damage or ongoing recovery from a severe, prior bleaching event. Altogether, the CBASS resolved historical, taxonomic, and possibly recent environmental drivers of variation in coral thermal thresholds, highlighting the potential for a standardized, short-term thermal assay as a universal approach for assessing ecological and evolutionary variation in the upper thermal limits of corals.
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
Orbicella faveolata. Ten reefs (five inshore, five offshore, 179 corals total) were sampled during bleaching (September 2015) and recovery (May 2016). Corals were genotyped with 2b RADand profiled for algal symbiont abundance and type. O. faveolataat the inshore sites, despite higher temperatures, demonstrated significantly higher bleaching resistance and better recovery compared to offshore. The thermotolerant Durusdinium trenchii(formerly Symbiondinium trenchii) was the dominant endosymbiont type region‐wide during initial (78.0% of corals sampled) and final (77.2%) sampling; >90% of the nonbleached corals were dominated by D. trenchii. 2b RADhost genotyping found no genetic structure among reefs, but inshore sites showed a high level of clonality. While none of the measured environmental parameters were correlated with bleaching, 71% of variation in bleaching resistance and 73% of variation in the proportion of D. trenchiiwas attributable to differences between genets, highlighting the leading role of genetics in shaping natural bleaching patterns. Notably, D. trenchiiwas rarely dominant in O. faveolatafrom the Florida Keys in previous studies, even during bleaching. The region‐wide high abundance of D. trenchiiwas likely driven by repeated bleaching associated with the two warmest years on record for the Florida Keys (2014 and 2015). On inshore reefs in the Upper Florida Keys, O. faveolatawas most abundant, had the highest bleaching resistance, and contained the most corals dominated by D. trenchii, illustrating a causal link between heat tolerance and ecosystem resilience with global change.
Coral communities in the Caribbean face a new and deadly threat in the form of the highly virulent multi-host stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD). In late January of 2019, a disease with signs and characteristics matching that of SCTLD was found affecting a reef off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Identification of its emergence in the USVI provided the opportunity to document the initial evolution of its spatial distribution, coral species susceptibility characteristics, and its comparative impact on coral cover at affected and unaffected coral reef locations. Re-assessments at sentinel sites and long-term monitoring locations were used to track the spread of the disease, assess species affected, and quantify its impact. The disease was initially limited to the southwest of St. Thomas for several months, then spread around the island and to the neighboring island of St. John to the east. Differences in disease prevalence among species were similar to reports of SCTLD from other regions. Highly affected species included Colpophyllia natans, Eusmilia fastigiata, Montastraea cavernosa, Orbicella spp., and Pseudodiploria strigosa. Dendrogyra cylindrus and Meandrina meandrites were also highly affected but showed more variability in disease prevalence, likely due to initial low abundances and the rapid loss of colonies due to disease. Siderastrea spp. were less affected and showed lower prevalence. Species previously reported as unaffected or data deficient that were found to be affected by SCTLD included Agaricia spp., Madracis spp., and Mycetophyllia spp. We also observed multi-focal lesions at SCTLD-affected sites on colonies of Porites astreoides, despite that poritids have previously been considered low or not susceptible to SCTLD. Loss of coral cover due to acute tissue loss diseases, which were predominantly SCTLD, was significant at several monitoring locations and was more impactful than previous mass bleaching events at some sites. There are no signs that the USVI SCTLD outbreak is abating, therefore it is likely that this disease will become widespread across the U.S. Caribbean and British Virgin Islands in the near future.more » « less
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.