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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 441:25-32 (2011)  -  DOI:

Multifocal bleaching of Millepora dichotoma in the Gulf of Aqaba (Eilat), Red Sea

Assaf Zvuloni1,2,3,*, Rachel Armoza-Zvuloni2,3,4, Yonathan Shaked3

1Israel Nature and Parks Authority, PO Box 667, Eilat 88000, Israel
2Department of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
3The H. Steinitz Marine Biology Laboratory, The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences of Eilat, PO Box 469, Eilat 88103, Israel
4National Centre for Mariculture, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, PO Box 1212, Eilat 88112, Israel

ABSTRACT: The zooxanthellate hydrocoral Millepora dichotoma is an important framework builder of shallow reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea). In this study, we document and characterize the emergence of multifocal bleaching (MFB), a new syndrome in M. dichotoma. MFB is characterized by bleached spots scattered over the colony. The establishment of MFB in M. dichotoma at the study site was surprisingly rapid. We first noticed this phenomenon and assessed its prevalence in February 2010, and re-assessed it 1 yr later, in February 2011. The prevalence of MFB along the reef crest at a depth of 0.5 m is extremely high (63 and 67% in 2010 and 2011, respectively), significantly higher than along the fore-reef at a depth of 2.5 m (16 and 31% in 2010 and 2011, respectively). Spatial analyses were used to characterize the distribution of MFB across 2 spatial scales on the reef: among-transects scale (<800 m) and within-transect scale (<60 m). The results clearly show that the affected hydrocorals are aggregated over these 2 scales. While several factors may contribute to the observed pattern, the aggregated spatial distribution of the affected hydrocorals suggests that local and inter-colonial transmission play a significant role in the spread of MFB.

KEY WORDS: Multifocal bleaching · Millepora · Hydrocoral · Gulf of Aqaba · Eilat · Spatial pattern

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Cite this article as: Zvuloni A, Armoza-Zvuloni R, Shaked Y (2011) Multifocal bleaching of Millepora dichotoma in the Gulf of Aqaba (Eilat), Red Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 441:25-32.

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