Abundance, size, and survival of recruits of the reef coral Pocillopora acuta under ocean warming and acidification

Ocean warming and acidification are among the greatest threats to coral reefs. Massive coral bleaching events are becoming increasingly common and are predicted to be more severe and frequent in the near future, putting corals reefs in danger of ecological collapse. This study quantified the abundance, size, and survival of the coral Pocillopora acuta under future projections of ocean warming and acidification. Flow-through mesocosms were exposed to current and future projections of ocean warming and acidification in a factorial design for 22 months. Neither ocean warming or acidification, nor their combination, influenced the size or abundance of P. acuta recruits, but heating impacted subsequent health and survival of the recruits. During annual maximum temperatures, coral recruits in heated tanks experienced higher levels of bleaching and subsequent mortality. Results of this study indicate that P. acuta is able to recruit under projected levels of ocean warming and acidification but are susceptible to bleaching and mortality during the warmest months.

Bahr K. D., Tran T., Jury C. P. & Toonen R. J., 2020. Abundance, size, and survival of recruits of the reef coral Pocillopora acuta under ocean warming and acidification. PLoS ONE 15 (2): e0228168. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228168. Article.

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