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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13534

Coral husbandry for ocean futures: leveraging abiotic factors to increase survivorship, growth and resilience in juvenile Montipora capitata

Joshua R. Hancock, Andrew R. Barrows, Teagan M. C. N. Roome, Ariana S. Huffmyer, Shayle B. Matsuda, Ninah J. Munk, Sophia A. Rahnke, Crawford Drury*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Reef restoration via direct outplanting of sexually propagated juvenile corals is a key strategy in preserving coral reef ecosystem function in the face of global and local stressors (e.g., ocean warming). To advance our capacity to scale and maximize the efficiency of restoration initiatives, we examine how abiotic conditions (i.e. larval rearing temperature, substrate condition, light intensity, and flow rate) interact to enhance post settlement survival and growth of sexually propagated juvenile Montipora capitata. Larvae were reared at three temperatures (High 28.9°C, Ambient 27.2°C, Low 24.5°C) for seventy-two hours during larval development, and were subsequently settled on aragonite plugs conditioned in seawater (1 or 10 weeks) and raised in different light and flow regimes. These juvenile corals underwent a natural bleaching event in Kāneʻohe Bay, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi in summer 2019, allowing us to opportunistically measure bleaching response in addition to survivorship and growth. This study demonstrates how leveraging light and flow can increase the survivorship and growth of juvenile Montipora capitata. In contrast, larval preconditioning and substrate conditioning had little overall effect on survivorship, growth or bleaching response. Importantly, there was no optimal combination of abiotic conditions that maximized survival and growth in addition to bleaching tolerances. This study highlights the ability to tailor sexual reproduction for specific restoration goals by addressing knowledge gaps and incorporating practices that could improve resilience in propagated stocks.