Variation in bleaching sensitivity of two coral species across a latitudinal gradient on the Great Barrier Reef: the role of zooxanthellae

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Journal Article
Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2006, 314 pp. 135 - 148
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The ability of corals to cope with environmental change, such as increased temperature, relies on the physiological mechanisms of acclimatisation and long-term genetic adaptation. We experimentally examined the bleaching sensitivity exhibited by 2 species of coral, Pocillopora damicornis and Turbinaria reniformis, at 3 locations across a latitudinal gradient of almost 6 degrees on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Target bleaching temperature was reached by using a ramping rate of 0.2 degrees C/h. We found that the bleaching sensitivity and recovery of both species differed between corals with clade D symbionts and those with clade C. However, in F damicornis bleaching susceptibility corresponded more strongly with latitude than with zooxanthella type and hence, temperature history, suggesting that local adaptation has occurred. The observed bleaching sensitivity was shown by a decrease in photochemical efficiency (F-v/F-m) in both species of coral. The rate of recovery in T reniformis was highest in explants containing clade D symbionts. The occurrence of clade D in the northern section of the GBR may reflect a long-term response to high sea water temperatures, while the presence of clade D in low abundance in T reniformis at Heralds Prong Reef and Percy Island may be a result of recent bleaching events.
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