Depth-dependent mortality of reef corals following a severe bleaching event: implications for thermal refuges and population recovery

Bridge, Tom C.L., Hoey, Andrew S., Campbell, Stuart J., Muttaquin, Efin, Rudi, Edi, Fadli, Nur, and Baird, Andrew H. (2013) Depth-dependent mortality of reef corals following a severe bleaching event: implications for thermal refuges and population recovery. F1000Research, 2. 187. pp. 1-12.

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Coral bleaching caused by rising sea temperature is a primary cause of coral reef degradation. However, bleaching patterns often show significant spatial variability, therefore identifying locations where local conditions may provide thermal refuges is a high conservation priority. Coral bleaching mortality often diminishes with increasing depth, but clear depth zonation of coral communities and putative limited overlap in species composition between deep and shallow reef habitats has led to the conclusion that deeper reef habitats will provide limited refuge from bleaching for most species. Here, we show that coral mortality following a severe bleaching event diminished sharply with depth. Bleaching-induced mortality of Acropora was approximately 90% at 0-2m, 60% at 3-4 m, yet at 6-8m there was negligible mortality. Importantly, at least two-thirds of the shallow-water (2-3 m) Acropora assemblage had a depth range that straddled the transition from high to low mortality. Cold-water upwelling may have contributed to the lower mortality observed in all but the shallowest depths. Our results demonstrate that, in this instance, depth provided a refuge for individuals from a high proportion of species in this Acropora-dominated assemblage. The persistence of deeper populations may provide a critical source of propagules to assist recovery of adjacent shallow-water reefs.

Item ID: 30060
Item Type: Article (Other)
ISSN: 2046-1402
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© 2013 Bridge TCL et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Data associated with the article are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Zero "No rights reserved" data waiver (CC0 1.0 Public domain dedication).

Later versions of this paper may become available as a result of referee/reader feedback.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Marine Program, Kerzner Marine Foundation
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2013 06:17
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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