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  1. Climate change is radically altering coral reef ecosystems, mainly through increasingly frequent and severe bleaching events. Yet, some reefs have exhibited higher thermal tolerance after bleaching severely the first time. To understand changes in thermal tolerance in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP), we compiled four decades of temperature, coral cover, coral bleaching, and mortality data, including three mass bleaching events during the 1982 to 1983, 1997 to 1998 and 2015 to 2016 El Niño heatwaves. Higher heat resistance in later bleaching events was detected in the dominant framework-building genus, Pocillopora, while other coral taxa exhibited similar susceptibility across events. Genetic analyses of Pocillopora spp . colonies and their algal symbionts (2014 to 2016) revealed that one of two Pocillopora lineages present in the region ( Pocillopora “ type 1”) increased its association with thermotolerant algal symbionts ( Durusdinium glynnii ) during the 2015 to 2016 heat stress event. This lineage experienced lower bleaching and mortality compared with Pocillopora “type 3”, which did not acquire D. glynnii . Under projected thermal stress, ETP reefs may be able to preserve high coral cover through the 2060s or later, mainly composed of Pocillopora colonies that associate with D. glynnii . However, although the low-diversity, high-cover reefs of the ETP could illustrate a potential functional state for some future reefs, this state may only be temporary unless global greenhouse gas emissions and resultant global warming are curtailed. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 21, 2024
  2. Coral reefs are shifting from coral to algal-dominated ecosystems worldwide. Recently, Turbinaria ornata, a marine alga native to coral reefs of the South Pacific, has spread in both range and habitat usage. Given dense stands of T. ornata can function as an alternative stable state on coral reefs, it is imperative to understand the factors that underlie its success. We tested the hypothesis that T. ornata demonstrates ontogenetic variation in allocation to anti-herbivore defense, specifically that blade toughness varied nonlinearly with thallus size. We quantified the relationship between T. ornata blade toughness and thallus size for individual thalli within algal stands (N=345) on 7 fringing reefs along the north shore of Moorea, French Polynesia. We found that blade toughness was greatest at intermediate sizes that typically form canopies, with overall reduced toughness in both smaller individuals that refuge within the understory and older reproductive individuals that ultimately detach and form floating rafts. We posit this variation in blade toughness reduces herbivory on the thalli that are most exposed to herbivores and may facilitate reproduction in dispersing stages, both of which may aid the proliferation of T. ornata. 
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