Evolution of thermal thresholds: can corals adapt to projected rates of change in sea surface temperatures?

Baird, Andrew H., Nakamura, Takashi, and Yamasaki, Hideo (2013) Evolution of thermal thresholds: can corals adapt to projected rates of change in sea surface temperatures? Galaxea, Journal of Coral Reef Studies, 15 (Special Issue). pp. 366-372.

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View at Publisher Website: http://dx.doi.org/10.3755/galaxea.15.366


A major research question for reef scientists is whether the accelerating rate of environmental change associated with global warming will exceed the capacity of coral species to adapt. While many authors claim that the genetic capacity of corals is exhausted, estimates of phenotypic variation and heritability in traits associated with thermal tolerance are rare. Here, we estimate variation in critical thermal maxima (CTmax) in two coral species: Porites cylindrica and Stylophora pistillata. We then use published estimates of generation times and per generation evolutionary rates to explore the capacity of these species to adapt to rising sea surface temperatures (SST). We estimate that between two and 7 decades will be required for these species to increase CTmax by 1.5°C. This range suggests these species can adapt to projected rises in SST of 2.0°C by the end of this century. However, more research is needed to determine empirically the heritability of these traits and generation times in coral species.

Item ID: 22515
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1883-3969
Keywords: adaptation, coral bleaching, coral reefs, climate change, critical thermal maxima, evolution, reef futures
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Paper from the Second Asia Pacific Coral Reef Symposium, Phuket, Thailand, 20-24 June, 2010

Funders: Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Short-term Fellowship, 21st century COE Program of the University of the Ryukyus
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2012 23:58
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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