Acclimatization of massive reef-building corals to consecutive heatwaves

DeCarlo, Thomas M., Harrison, Hugo B., Gajdzik, Laura, Alaguarda, Diego, Rodolfo-Metalpa, Riccardo, D'Olivo, Juan, Liu, Gang, Patalwala, Diana, and McCulloch, Malcolm T. (2019) Acclimatization of massive reef-building corals to consecutive heatwaves. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 286 (1898).

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Reef-building corals typically live close to the upper limits of their thermal tolerance and even small increases in summer water temperatures can lead to bleaching and mortality. Projections of coral reef futures based on forecasts of ocean temperatures indicate that by the end of this century, corals will experience their current thermal thresholds annually, which would lead to the widespread devastation of coral reef ecosystems. Here, we use skeletal cores of long-lived Porites corals collected from 14 reefs across the northern Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea, and New Caledonia to evaluate changes in their sensitivity to heat stress since 1815. High-density 'stress bands'-indicative of past bleaching-first appear during a strong pre-industrial El Nino event in 1877 but become significantly more frequent in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in accordance with rising temperatures from anthropogenic global warming. However, the proportion of cores with stress bands declines following successive bleaching events in the twenty-first century despite increasing exposure to heat stress. Our findings demonstrate an increase in the thermal tolerance of reef-building corals and offer a glimmer of hope that at least some coral species can acclimatize fast enough to keep pace with global warming.

Item ID: 58415
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: coral reefs, acclimatization, climate change, ocean warming, coral bleaching
Copyright Information: Copyright 2019 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: John and Laurine Proud Foundation, Australian Museum (AM), Australian Research Council (ARC), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)
Projects and Grants: ARC DE160101141, ARC CE140100020, ARC FL120100049, AM Lizard Island Research Station
Date Deposited: 29 May 2019 07:38
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 100%
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