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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 515:1-10 (2014)  -  DOI:

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

Don R. Levitan1,*, William Boudreau1, Javier Jara2, Nancy Knowlton

1Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-4295, USA
2Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 2072, Balboa, Republic of Panama
3Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: We examined the long-term reproductive consequence of bleaching stress on Caribbean corals in the Orbicella (formerly Montastraea) species complex (O. annularis, O. faveolata, and O. franksi). Over 2000 observations of spawning in 526 tagged corals in Panama were made from 2002 through 2013. Bleaching events were noted in 2005 and 2010. At the population level, a reduction in spawning persisted for several years following each bleaching event. In 2010, (1) the bleaching event did not alter the timing of spawning, nor coral survivorship or tissue loss; (2) both bleached and unbleached corals had a reduced probability of spawning for several years following the bleaching event, and corals that visibly bleached were less likely to spawn than corals that did not visibly bleach; (3) the species that was affected most by the bleaching event (O. annularis) recovered the ability to spawn in fewer years compared to the species least affected by the bleaching event (O. franksi); and (4) in O. franksi, the species with the widest depth distribution, recovery in the likelihood to spawn was not depth related, although individuals at greater depths were less likely to bleach. In sum, corals that recover from bleaching events can experience long-term reduction in reproduction, over time scales that can bridge the interval between subsequent bleaching events. This may be catastrophic for the long-term maintenance of the population.

KEY WORDS: Allee effects · Coral bleaching · Fertilization · Spawning · Synchrony

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Cite this article as: Levitan DR, Boudreau W, Jara J, Knowlton N (2014) Long-term reduced spawning in Orbicella coral species due to temperature stress. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 515:1-10.

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