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  1. null (Ed.)
  2. Abstract

    By the century's end, many tropical seas will reach temperatures exceeding most coral species' thermal tolerance on an annual basis. The persistence of corals in these regions will, therefore, depend on their abilities to tolerate recurrent thermal stress. Although ecologists have long recognized that positive interspecific interactions can ameliorate environmental stress to expand the realized niche of plants and animals, coral bleaching studies have largely overlooked how interactions with community members outside of the coral holobiont shape the bleaching response. Here, we subjected a common coral,Pocillopora grandis, to 10 days of thermal stress in aquaria with and without the damselfishDascyllus flavicaudus(yellowtail dascyllus), which commonly shelter within these corals, to examine how interactions with damselfish impacted coral thermal tolerance. Corals often benefit from nutrients excreted by animals they interact with and prior to thermal stress, corals grown with damselfish showed improved photophysiology (Fv/Fm) and developed larger endosymbiont populations. When exposed to thermal stress, corals with fish performed as well as control corals maintained at ambient temperatures without fish. In contrast, corals exposed to thermal stress without fish experienced photophysiological impairment, a more than 50% decline in endosymbiont density, and a 36% decrease in tissue protein content. At the end of the experiment, thermal stress caused average calcification rates to decrease by over 80% when damselfish were absent but increase nearly 25% when damselfish were present. Our study indicates that damselfish‐derived nutrients can increase coral thermal tolerance and are consistent with the Stress Gradient Hypothesis, which predicts that positive interactions become increasingly important for structuring communities as environmental stress increases. Because warming of just a few degrees can exceed corals' temperature tolerance to trigger bleaching and mortality, positive interactions could play a critical role in maintaining some coral species in warming regions until climate change is aggressively addressed.

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  3. The global decline of corals has created an urgent need for effective, science‐based methods to augment coral populations and restore important ecosystem functions. To meet this challenge, the field of coral restoration has rapidly evolved over the past decade. However, despite widespread efforts to outplant corals and monitor survivorship, there is a shortage of information on the effects of coral restoration on reef communities or important ecosystem functions. To fill this knowledge gap, we examined the effects of restoration on three major criteria: diversity, community structure, and ecological processes. We conducted surveys of four restored sites in the Florida Keys ranging in restoration effort (500–2,300 corals outplanted) paired with surveys of nearby, unmanipulated control sites. Coral restoration successfully enhanced coral populations, increasing coral cover 4‐fold, but manifested in limited differences in coral and fish communities. Some restored sites had higher abundance of herbivorous fish, rates of herbivory, or more juvenile‐sized corals, but these effects were limited to individual reefs. Damselfish were consistently more abundant at restored compared to control sites. Despite augmenting target coral populations, 3 years of coral restoration has not facilitated many of the positive feedbacks that help reinforce coral success. In a time of increasingly frequent disturbances, it is urgent we hasten the speed at which reefs recover important ecological processes, such as herbivory and nutrient cycling, that make reefs more resistant and resilient if we are to achieve long‐term restoration success.

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