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  1. Abstract

    Marine heatwaves are increasing in frequency and duration, threatening tropical reef ecosystems through intensified coral bleaching events. We examined a strikingly variable spatial pattern of bleaching in Moorea, French Polynesia following a heatwave that lasted from November 2018 to July 2019. In July 2019, four months after the onset of bleaching, we surveyed > 5000 individual colonies of the two dominant coral genera,PocilloporaandAcropora, at 10 m and 17 m water depths, at six forereef sites around the island where temperature was measured. We found severe bleaching increased with colony size for both coral genera, butAcroporableached more severely thanPocilloporaoverall. Acroporableached more at 10 m than 17 m, likely due to higher light availability at 10 m compared to 17 m, or greater daily temperature fluctuation at depth. Bleaching inPocilloporacorals did not differ with depth but instead varied with the interaction of colony size and Accumulated Heat Stress (AHS), in that larger colonies (> 30 cm) were more sensitive to AHS than mid-size (10–29 cm) or small colonies (5–9 cm). Our findings provide insight into complex interactions among coral taxa, colony size, and water depth that produce high spatial variation in bleaching and related coral mortality.

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  2. Abstract Coral disease is becoming increasingly problematic on reefs worldwide. However, most coral disease research has focused on the abiotic drivers of disease, potentially overlooking the role of species interactions in disease dynamics. Coral predators in particular can influence disease by breaking through protective tissues and exposing corals to infections, vectoring diseases among corals, or serving as reservoirs for pathogens. Numerous studies have demonstrated the relationship between corallivores and disease in certain contexts, but to date there has been no comprehensive synthesis of the relationships between corallivores and disease, which hinders our understanding of coral disease dynamics. To address this void, we identified 65 studies from 26 different ecoregions that examine this predator–prey-disease relationship. Observational studies found over 20 positive correlations between disease prevalence and corallivore abundance, with just four instances documenting a negative correlation between corallivores and disease. Studies found putative pathogens in corallivore guts and experiments demonstrated the ability of corallivores to vector pathogens. Corallivores were also frequently found infesting disease margins or targeting diseased tissues, but the ecological ramifications of this behavior remains unknown. We found that the impact of corallivores was taxon-dependent, with most invertebrates increasing disease incidence, prevalence, or progression; fish showing highly context-dependent effects; and xanthid crabs decreasing disease progression. Simulated wounding caused disease in many cases, but experimental wound debridement slowed disease progression in others, which could explain contrasting findings from different taxa. The negative effects of corallivores are likely to worsen as storms intensify, macroalgal cover increases, more nutrients are added to marine systems, and water temperatures increase. As diseases continue to impact coral reefs globally, a more complete understanding of the ecological dynamics of disease—including those involving coral predators—is of paramount importance to coral reef conservation and management. 
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  3. abstract Coastal ecosystems play a disproportionately large role in society, and climate change is altering their ecological structure and function, as well as their highly valued goods and services. In the present article, we review the results from decade-scale research on coastal ecosystems shaped by foundation species (e.g., coral reefs, kelp forests, coastal marshes, seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, barrier islands) to show how climate change is altering their ecological attributes and services. We demonstrate the value of site-based, long-term studies for quantifying the resilience of coastal systems to climate forcing, identifying thresholds that cause shifts in ecological state, and investigating the capacity of coastal ecosystems to adapt to climate change and the biological mechanisms that underlie it. We draw extensively from research conducted at coastal ecosystems studied by the US Long Term Ecological Research Network, where long-term, spatially extensive observational data are coupled with shorter-term mechanistic studies to understand the ecological consequences of climate change. 
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  4. Abstract

    Microbiomes are essential features of holobionts, providing their hosts with key metabolic and functional traits like resistance to environmental disturbances and diseases. In scleractinian corals, questions remain about the microbiome's role in resistance and resilience to factors contributing to the ongoing global coral decline and whether microbes serve as a form of holobiont ecological memory. To test if and how coral microbiomes affect host health outcomes during repeated disturbances, we conducted a large‐scale (32 exclosures, 200 colonies, and 3 coral species sampled) and long‐term (28 months, 2018–2020) manipulative experiment on the forereef of Mo'orea, French Polynesia. In 2019 and 2020, this reef experienced the two most severe marine heatwaves on record for the site. Our experiment and these events afforded us the opportunity to test microbiome dynamics and roles in the context of coral bleaching and mortality resulting from these successive and severe heatwaves. We report unique microbiome responses to repeated heatwaves inAcropora retusa,Porites lobata, andPocilloporaspp., which included: microbiome acclimatization inA. retusa, and both microbiome resilience to the first marine heatwave and microbiome resistance to the second marine heatwave inPocilloporaspp. Moreover, observed microbiome dynamics significantly correlated with coral species‐specific phenotypes. For example, bleaching and mortality inA. retusaboth significantly increased with greater microbiome beta dispersion and greater Shannon Diversity, whileP. lobatacolonies had different microbiomes across mortality prevalence. Compositional microbiome changes, such as changes to proportions of differentially abundant putatively beneficial to putatively detrimental taxa to coral health outcomes during repeated heat stress, also correlated with host mortality, with higher proportions of detrimental taxa yielding higher mortality inA. retusa. This study reveals evidence for coral species‐specific microbial responses to repeated heatwaves and, importantly, suggests that host‐dependent microbiome dynamics may provide a form of holobiont ecological memory to repeated heat stress.

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  5. Abstract

    The relative importance of evolutionary history and ecology for traits that drive ecosystem processes is poorly understood. Consumers are essential drivers of nutrient cycling on coral reefs, and thus ecosystem productivity. We use nine consumer “chemical traits” associated with nutrient cycling, collected from 1,572 individual coral reef fishes (178 species spanning 41 families) in two biogeographic regions, the Caribbean and Polynesia, to quantify the relative importance of phylogenetic history and ecological context as drivers of chemical trait variation on coral reefs. We find: (1) phylogenetic relatedness is the best predictor of all chemical traits, substantially outweighing the importance of ecological factors thought to be key drivers of these traits, (2) phylogenetic conservatism in chemical traits is greater in the Caribbean than Polynesia, where our data suggests that ecological forces have a greater influence on chemical trait variation, and (3) differences in chemical traits between regions can be explained by differences in nutrient limitation associated with the geologic context of our study locations. Our study provides multiple lines of evidence that phylogeny is a critical determinant of contemporary nutrient dynamics on coral reefs. More broadly our findings highlight the utility of evolutionary history to improve prediction in ecosystem ecology.

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