Energetics approach to predicting mortality risk from environmental stress: a case study of coral bleaching

Anthony, Kenneth R.N., Hoogenboom, Mia O., Maynard, Jeffrey A., Grottoli, Andréa G., and Middlebrook, Rachael (2009) Energetics approach to predicting mortality risk from environmental stress: a case study of coral bleaching. Functional Ecology, 23 (3). pp. 539-550.

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1. Coral bleaching events, predicted to increase in frequency and severity as a result of climate change, are a threat to tropical coral-reef ecosystems worldwide. Although the onset of spatially extensive, or 'mass', bleaching events can be predicted using simple temperature stress metrics, no models are available for predicting coral mortality risk or sub-lethal stress associated with bleaching. Here, we develop a model that links the functional response of colony energy balance and energy store dynamics to coral mortality risk and recovery during and following bleaching events.

2. In a series of simulations using response functions and parameter values derived from experimental studies for two Indo-Pacific coral species (Acropora intermedia and Montipora monasteriata), we demonstrate that prior energy-costly disturbances and alternative energy sources are both important determinants of coral mortality risk during and following bleaching.

3. The timing of the onset of coral mass mortality is determined by a combination of bleaching severity (loss rate of photopigments), duration of the bleaching event, heterotrophy and the size of energy reserves (as lipid stores) before bleaching occurs.

4. Depending on initial energy reserves, model results showed that high rates of heterotrophy could delay the onset of coral mortality by up to three weeks. Survival following bleaching was also strongly influenced by remaining lipid reserves, rates of heterotrophy, and rates of photopigment (or symbiont) recovery.

5. Our results indicate that energy-costly disturbances and low availability of food, before and during bleaching events, respectively, work to increase bleaching-induced coral mortality risk for acroporid corals on Indo-Pacific reefs.

Item ID: 15390
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2435
Keywords: climate change, environmental stress, physiological energetics, scleractinian coral, Great Barrier Reef
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2011 04:39
FoR Codes: 01 MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES > 0102 Applied Mathematics > 010202 Biological Mathematics @ 15%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 35%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060203 Ecological Physiology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 30%
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