Intraspecific variation in physiological condition of reef-building corals associated with differential levels of chronic disturbance

Pisapia, Chiara, Anderson, Kristen, and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2014) Intraspecific variation in physiological condition of reef-building corals associated with differential levels of chronic disturbance. PLoS ONE, 9 (3). e9152. pp. 1-8.

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Even in the absence of major disturbances (e.g., cyclones, bleaching), corals are subject to high levels of partial or whole-colony mortality, often caused by chronic and small-scale disturbances. Depending on levels of background mortality, these chronic disturbances may undermine individual fitness and have significant consequences on the ability of colonies to withstand subsequent acute disturbances or environmental change. This study quantified intraspecific variations in physiological condition (measured based on total lipid content and zooxanthellae density) through time in adult colonies of two common and widespread coral species (Acropora spathulata and Pocillopora damicornis), subject to different levels of biological and physical disturbances along the most disturbed reef habitat, the crest. Marked intraspecific variation in the physiological condition of A. spathulata was clearly linked to differences in local disturbance regimes and habitat. Specifically, zooxanthellae density decreased (r2 = 26, df = 5,42, p<0.02, B = -121255, p = 0.03) and total lipid content increased (r2 = 14, df = 5,42, p = 0.01, B = 0.9, p = 0.01) with increasing distance from exposed crests. Moreover, zooxanthellae density was strongly and negatively correlated with the individual level of partial mortality (r2 = 26, df = 5,42, p<0.02, B = -7386077, p = 0.01). Conversely, P. damicornis exhibited very limited intraspecific variation in physiological condition, despite marked differences in levels of partial mortality. This is the first study to relate intraspecific variation in the condition of corals to localized differences in chronic disturbance regimes. The next step is to ascertain whether these differences have further ramifications for susceptibility to periodic acute disturbances, such as climate-induced coral bleaching.

Item ID: 32532
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
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© 2014 Pisapia et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, AIMS@JCU
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2014 04:21
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060203 Ecological Physiology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
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