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  1. Abstract Ocean warming is killing corals, but heat-tolerant populations exist; if protected, they could replenish affected reefs naturally or through restoration. Palau’s Rock Islands experience consistently higher temperatures and extreme heatwaves, yet their diverse coral communities bleach less than those on Palau’s cooler outer reefs. Here, we combined genetic analyses, bleaching histories and growth rates of Porites cf. lobata colonies to identify thermally tolerant genotypes, map their distribution, and investigate potential growth trade-offs. We identified four genetic lineages of P . cf. lobata . On Palau’s outer reefs, a thermally sensitive lineage dominates. The Rock Islands harbor two lineages with enhanced thermal tolerance; one of which shows no consistent growth trade-off and also occurs on several outer reefs. This suggests that the Rock Islands provide naturally tolerant larvae to neighboring areas. Finding and protecting such sources of thermally-tolerant corals is key to reef survival under 21 st century climate change. 
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  4. Abstract A substantial body of research now exists demonstrating sensitivities of marine organisms to ocean acidification (OA) in laboratory settings. However, corresponding in situ observations of marine species or ecosystem changes that can be unequivocally attributed to anthropogenic OA are limited. Challenges remain in detecting and attributing OA effects in nature, in part because multiple environmental changes are co-occurring with OA, all of which have the potential to influence marine ecosystem responses. Furthermore, the change in ocean pH since the industrial revolution is small relative to the natural variability within many systems, making it difficult to detect, and in some cases, has yet to cross physiological thresholds. The small number of studies that clearly document OA impacts in nature cannot be interpreted as a lack of larger-scale attributable impacts at the present time or in the future but highlights the need for innovative research approaches and analyses. We summarize the general findings in four relatively well-studied marine groups (seagrasses, pteropods, oysters, and coral reefs) and integrate overarching themes to highlight the challenges involved in detecting and attributing the effects of OA in natural environments. We then discuss four potential strategies to better evaluate and attribute OA impacts on species and ecosystems. First, we highlight the need for work quantifying the anthropogenic input of CO2 in coastal and open-ocean waters to understand how this increase in CO2 interacts with other physical and chemical factors to drive organismal conditions. Second, understanding OA-induced changes in population-level demography, potentially increased sensitivities in certain life stages, and how these effects scale to ecosystem-level processes (e.g. community metabolism) will improve our ability to attribute impacts to OA among co-varying parameters. Third, there is a great need to understand the potential modulation of OA impacts through the interplay of ecology and evolution (eco–evo dynamics). Lastly, further research efforts designed to detect, quantify, and project the effects of OA on marine organisms and ecosystems utilizing a comparative approach with long-term data sets will also provide critical information for informing the management of marine ecosystems. 
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  5. Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle intensified over the 1900s. Model simulations suggest that large swaths of the open ocean, including the North Atlantic and the western Pacific, have already been affected by anthropogenic nitrogen through atmospheric transport and deposition. Here we report an ∼130-year-long record of the15N/14N of skeleton-bound organic matter in a coral from the outer reef of Bermuda, which provides a test of the hypothesis that anthropogenic atmospheric nitrogen has significantly augmented the nitrogen supply to the open North Atlantic surface ocean. The Bermuda15N/14N record does not show a long-term decline in the Anthropocene of the amplitude predicted by model simulations or observed in a western Pacific coral15N/14N record. Rather, the decadal variations in the Bermuda15N/14N record appear to be driven by the North Atlantic Oscillation, most likely through changes in the formation rate of Subtropical Mode Water. Given that anthropogenic nitrogen emissions have been decreasing in North America since the 1990s, this study suggests that in the coming decades, the open North Atlantic will remain minimally affected by anthropogenic nitrogen deposition.

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  6. Abstract

    Ocean warming is causing declines of coral reefs globally, raising critical questions about the potential for corals to adapt. In the central equatorial Pacific, reefs persisting through recurrent El Niño heatwaves hold important clues. Using an 18‐year record of coral cover spanning three major bleaching events, we show that the impact of thermal stress on coral mortality within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) has lessened over time. Disproportionate survival of extreme thermal stress during the 2009–2010 and 2015–2016 heatwaves, relative to that in 2002–2003, suggests that selective mortality through successive heatwaves may help shape coral community responses to future warming. Identifying and facilitating the conditions under which coral survival and recovery can keep pace with rates of warming are essential first steps toward successful stewardship of coral reefs under 21st century climate change.

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  7. Abstract

    The oceans are warming and coral reefs are bleaching with increased frequency and severity, fueling concerns for their survival through this century. Yet in the central equatorial Pacific, some of the world’s most productive reefs regularly experience extreme heat associated with El Niño. Here we use skeletal signatures preserved in long-lived corals on Jarvis Island to evaluate the coral community response to multiple successive heatwaves since 1960. By tracking skeletal stress band formation through the 2015-16 El Nino, which killed 95% of Jarvis corals, we validate their utility as proxies of bleaching severity and show that 2015-16 was not the first catastrophic bleaching event on Jarvis. Since 1960, eight severe (>30% bleaching) and two moderate (<30% bleaching) events occurred, each coinciding with El Niño. While the frequency and severity of bleaching on Jarvis did not increase over this time period, 2015–16 was unprecedented in magnitude. The trajectory of recovery of this historically resilient ecosystem will provide critical insights into the potential for coral reef resilience in a warming world.

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  8. Abstract

    Internal waves strongly influence the physical and chemical environment of coastal ecosystems worldwide. We report novel observations from a distributed temperature sensing (DTS) system that tracked the transformation of internal waves from the shelf break to the surf zone over a narrow shelf slope region in the South China Sea. The spatially continuous view of temperature fields provides a perspective of physical processes commonly available only in laboratory settings or numerical models, including internal wave reflection off a natural slope, shoreward transport of dense fluid within trapped cores, and observations of internal rundown (near‐bed, offshore‐directed jets of water preceding a breaking internal wave). Analysis shows that the fate of internal waves on this shelf—whether transmitted into shallow waters or reflected back offshore—is mediated by local water column density structure and background currents set by the previous shoaling internal waves, highlighting the importance of wave‐wave interactions in nearshore internal wave dynamics.

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