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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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A severe coral bleaching event reduced the likelihood of spawning in both visibly bleached and unbleached corals for 4 years. Photo: Raphael Ritson-Williams

Levitan DR, Boudreau W, Jara J, Knowlton N


Long-term reduced spawning in Orbicella coral species due to temperature stress


Short-term thermal stress on corals in the Orbicella species complex in Panama can reduce the spawning probability of individual corals for several years. Visibly bleached corals were, for three years, less likely to spawn compared to corals that did not show evidence of bleaching. All corals, regardless of whether they visibly bleached, had four years of reduced spawning compared to prior to the stress event. This time-scale of reduced spawning approaches the interval between thermal stress events, which are becoming more common on tropical reefs. Because coral reproductive success depends on neighbors spawning synchronously, some coral species might typically be in a state of reproductive stress and recovery that might, moderately to severely, hinder successful offspring production.


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