MEPS 409:51-63 (2010)  -  DOI:

Response of Pocillopora verrucosa to corallivory varies with environmental conditions

Hunter S. Lenihan1,*, Peter J. Edmunds2

1Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-5131, USA
2Department of Biology, California State University, Northridge, California 91330-8303, USA

ABSTRACT: We wounded Pocillopora verrucosa to simulate injury caused by fish corallivores, and then evaluated impacts of this damage on coral performance under different temperatures (26.6 and 29.6°C) and flow speeds (6 and 21 cm s–1) in microcosms. Colony growth (weight), photosynthetic efficiency (maximum dark-adapted quantum yield of PSII, Fv/Fm [where PSII is Photosystem II, Fv variable fluorescence and Fm maximum fluorescence yield in the dark]), and the healing of lesions were measured during 2 replicate 10 d trials. Injury caused growth to increase in 3 of 4 treatments: high flow, high temperature; low flow, high temperature; and low flow, low temperature. However, growth was greatest for uninjured corals in the high-flow, low temperature treatment, which appears to provide optimal conditions for P. verrucosa (when not injured). Temperature alone had little effect on growth but influenced Fv/Fm, as did flow; Fv/Fm was 5% greater at 26.6°C than 29.6°C, and 3% higher at 21 cm s–1 than 6 cm s–1. Injury had little effect on Fv/Fm, and neither temperature nor flow affected the rate of healing that occurred at 17 to 25% of the lesion area in 10 d. Results from a field experiment, in which growth of P. verrucosa was tested as a function of flow speed (~14 cm s–1 versus ~3 cm s–1) and fish predation (predators versus no predators), but not temperature, supported results of the microcosm experiment. Growth was greatest for corals in the high-flow, no predator treatment, and relatively high for injured corals in low flow. Together, these results suggest that P. verrucosa, a common branching coral, prioritizes overall growth over repair when injured by fish feeding, which differs from the outcome observed in a companion study in which juvenile colonies of massive Porites were subjected to similar injuries.

KEY WORDS: Coral · Predation · Flow · Temperature · Scleractinia

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Cite this article as: Lenihan HS, Edmunds PJ (2010) Response of Pocillopora verrucosa to corallivory varies with environmental conditions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 409:51-63.

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