Temporal consistency in background mortality of four dominant coral taxa along Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Pisapia, C., Anderson, K.D., and Pratchett, M.S. (2016) Temporal consistency in background mortality of four dominant coral taxa along Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs, 35 (3). pp. 839-849.

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Abstract

Studies on the population and community dynamics of scleractinian corals typically focus on catastrophic mortality associated with acute disturbances (e.g., coral bleaching and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish), though corals are subject to high levels of background mortality and injuries caused by routine and chronic processes. This study quantified prevalence (proportion of colonies with injuries) and severity (areal extent of injuries on individual colonies) of background mortality and injuries for four common coral taxa (massive Porites, encrusting Montipora, Acropora hyacinthus and branching Pocillopora) on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Sampling was conducted over three consecutive years during which there were no major acute disturbances. A total of 2276 adult colonies were surveyed across 27 sites, within nine reefs and three distinct latitudinal sectors. The prevalence of injuries was very high (> 83%) across all four taxa, but highest for Porites (91%) and Montipora (85%). For these taxa (Montipora and Pocillopora), there was also significant temporal and spatial variation in prevalence of partial mortality. The severity of injuries ranged from 3% to more than 80% and varied among coral taxa, but was fairly constant spatially and temporally. This shows that some injuries have considerable longevity and that corals may invest relatively little in regenerating tissue over sites of previous injuries. Inter-colony variation in the severity of injury also had no apparent effect on the realized growth of individual colonies, suggesting that energy diverted to regeneration has a limited bearing on overall energetic allocation, or impacts on other life-history processes (e.g., reproduction) rather than growth. Establishing background levels of injury and regeneration is important for understanding energy investment and life-history consequences for reef-building corals as well as for predicting susceptibility to, and capacity to recover from, acute disturbances.

Item ID: 46112
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: disturbance, resilience, coral reefs, partial mortality, temporal variation, long-term
ISSN: 1432-0975
Funders: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CECRS), Australian Institute of Marine Science at James Cook University (AIMS@JCU), Graduate Research Scheme award (GRS), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Science for Management Awards
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2016 07:43
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 25%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060207 Population Ecology @ 25%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9610 Natural Hazards > 961006 Natural Hazards in Marine Environments @ 65%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960399 Climate and Climate Change not elsewhere classified @ 10%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 25%
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