Experimental considerations of acute heat stress assays to quantify coral thermal tolerance

Nielsen, J.J.V., Matthews, G., Frith, K.R., Harrison, H.B., Marzonie, M.R., Slaughter, K.L., Suggett, D.J., and Bay, L.K. (2022) Experimental considerations of acute heat stress assays to quantify coral thermal tolerance. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). 16831.

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Understanding the distribution and abundance of heat tolerant corals across seascapes is imperative for predicting responses to climate change and to support novel management actions. Thermal tolerance is variable in corals and intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of tolerance are not well understood. Traditional experimental evaluations of coral heat and bleaching tolerance typically involve ramp-and-hold experiments run across days to weeks within aquarium facilities with limits to colony replication. Field-based acute heat stress assays have emerged as an alternative experimental approach to rapidly quantify heat tolerance in many samples yet the role of key methodological considerations on the stress response measured remains unresolved. Here, we quantify the effects of coral fragment size, sampling time point, and physiological measures on the acute heat stress response in adult corals. The effect of fragment size differed between species (Acropora tenuis and Pocillopora damicornis). Most physiological parameters measured here declined over time (tissue colour, chlorophyll-a and protein content) from the onset of heating, with the exception of maximum photosynthetic efficiency (Fv/Fm) which was surprisingly stable over this time scale. Based on our experiments, we identified photosynthetic efficiency, tissue colour change, and host-specific assays such as catalase activity as key physiological measures for rapid quantification of thermal tolerance. We recommend that future applications of acute heat stress assays include larger fragments (> 9 cm2) where possible and sample between 10 and 24 h after the end of heat stress. A validated high-throughput experimental approach combined with cost-effective genomic and physiological measurements underpins the development of markers and maps of heat tolerance across seascapes and ocean warming scenarios.

Item ID: 76339
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
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Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/.
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2023 03:59
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 70%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 30%
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