Mesophotic coral communities escape thermal coral bleaching in French Polynesia

Perez-Rosales, Gonzalo, Rouze, Heloise, Torda, Gergely, Bongaerts, Pim, Pichon, Michel, Parravicini, Valeriano, and Hedouin, Laetitia (2021) Mesophotic coral communities escape thermal coral bleaching in French Polynesia. Royal Society Open Science, 8 (11). 20139.

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Climate change and consequent coral bleaching are causing the disappearance of reef-building corals worldwide. While bleaching episodes significantly impact shallow waters, little is known about their impact on mesophotic coral communities. We studied the prevalence of coral bleaching two to three months after a heat stress event, along an extreme depth range from 6 to 90 m in French Polynesia. Bayesian modelling showed a decreasing probability of bleaching of all coral genera over depth, with little to no bleaching observed at lower mesophotic depths (greater than or equal to 60 m). We found that depth-generalist corals benefit more from increasing depth than depth-specialists (corals with a narrow depth range). Our data suggest that the reduced prevalence of bleaching with depth, especially from shallow to upper mesophotic depths (40 m), had a stronger relation with the light-irradiance attenuation than temperature. While acknowledging the geographical and temporal variability of the role of mesophotic reefs as spatial refuges during thermal stress, we ought to understand why coral bleaching reduces with depth. Future studies should consider repeated monitoring and detailed ecophysiological and environmental data. Our study demonstrated how increasing depth may offer a level of protection and that lower mesophotic communities could escape the impacts of a thermal bleaching event.

Item ID: 72141
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2054-5703
Keywords: coral bleaching,mesophotic coral communities,spatial refuge,climate change,French Polynesia
Copyright Information: © 2021 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
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 09:17
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310303 Ecological physiology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1905 Understanding climate change > 190506 Effects of climate change on the South Pacific (excl. Australia and New Zealand) (excl. social impacts) @ 100%
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