Among-species variation in the energy budgets of reef-building corals: scaling from coral polyps to communities

Hoogenboom, Mia, Rottier, Cécile, Sikorski, Severine, and Ferrier-Pagés, Christine (2015) Among-species variation in the energy budgets of reef-building corals: scaling from coral polyps to communities. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218 (24). pp. 3866-3877.

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The symbiosis between corals and dinoflagellates promotes the rapid growth of corals in shallow tropical oceans, and the high overall productivity of coral reefs. The aim of this study was to quantify and understand variation in carbon acquisition and allocation among coral species. We measured multiple physiological traits (including symbiont density, calcification, photosynthesis and tissue composition) for the same coral fragments to facilitate direct comparisons between species (Stylophora pistillata, Pocillopora damicornis, Galaxea fascicularis, Turbinaria reniformis and Acropora sp.). Tissue protein content was highly sensitive to the availability of particulate food, increasing in fed colonies of all species. Despite among-species variation in physiology, and consistent effects of feeding on some traits, overall energy allocation to tissue compared with skeleton growth did not depend on food availability. Extrapolating from our results, estimated whole-assemblage carbon uptake varied >20-fold across different coral assemblages, but this variation was largely driven by differences in the tissue surface area of different colony morphologies, rather than by differences in surface-area-specific physiological rates. Our results caution against drawing conclusions about reef productivity based solely on physiological rates measured per unit tissue surface area. Understanding the causes and consequences of among-species variation in physiological energetics provides insight into the mechanisms that underlie the fluxes of organic matter within reefs, and between reefs and the open ocean.

Item ID: 44342
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1477-9145
Keywords: nergy balance; heterotrophic feeding; lipid stores; stable isotope analyses; photosynthesis; Scleractinian corals
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Permission to make final published version open access in an institutional repository 12 months after publication:

Funders: Government of the Principality of Monaco, James Cook University
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2016 23:56
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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