This study reports on the deepest records (~ 24 m depth) of coral bleaching in a naturally temperature-stable environment (> 26 °C with an intra-annual variability of ~ 2 °C), which was recorded during a mass bleaching event in the locally dominant, massive scleractinian coral Siderastrea stellata in equatorial waters of Brazil (SW Atlantic). An inter-annual analysis (2002–2017) indicated that this bleaching event was related to anomalies in sea surface temperature (SST) that led to the warmest year (2010) in this century (1 to 1.7 °C above average). Such anomalies caused heat stress (28.5–29.5 °C) in this equatorial environment that resulted in a bleaching event. Our results suggest that the increase in SST, low turbidity, and weak winds may have acted together to affect these stress-tolerant corals in marginal reefs. The equatorial coastline of Brazil is characterized by low intra-annual and inter-annual variations in SST, which suggests that the S. stellata corals here may be acclimatized to these stable conditions and, consequently, have a lower bleaching threshold because of lower historical heat stress.
Djiboutian coral reefs are poorly studied, but are of critical importance to tourism and artisanal fishing in this small developing nation. In 2014 and 2016 we carried out the most comprehensive survey of Djiboutian reefs to date, and present data on their ecology, health and estimate their vulnerability to future coral bleaching and anthropogenic impacts. Reef type varied from complex reef formations exposed to wind and waves along the Gulf of Aden, to narrow fringing reefs adjacent to the deep sheltered waters of the Gulf of Tadjoura. Evidence suggests that in the past 35 years the reefs have not previously experienced severe coral bleaching or significant human impacts, with many reefs having healthy and diverse coral and fish populations. Mean coral cover was high (52%) and fish assemblages were dominated by fishery target species and herbivores. However, rising sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and rapid recent coastal development activities in Djibouti are likely future threats to these relatively untouched reefs.
Globally, coral reefs are degrading rapidly due to the combined impact of wide-scale anthropogenic activities and climate change. Similarly, coral reefs in India are facing an existential threat because of intensified environmental degradation, which challenges reef ecosystem resilience and socio-ecological stability. Recently, Govt. of India has taken up the ‘SagarMala Programme’ aiming to increase its port capacity by the expansion of existing ports, construction of several new ports and allied infrastructure development by 2025. Synergistic impact of coastal development coupled with the on-going environmental changes is deemed to accelerate coral reef degradation in Indian reefs. Therefore, the present article aims to highlight the urgency of positive intervention and initiation of long-term holistic coral reef restoration program as an active reef management tool. Along with conventional management practices, reef restoration program could curtail further reef degradation and will ensure the persistence of Indian coral reefs and the services they provide.
Cold-water corals (CWCs) were found to occur in association with authigenic carbonates in a cold seep area on the northern continental slopes of the South China Sea (SCS). The taxa identified were: Balanophyllia (Balanophyllia) sp., Balanophyllia (Eupsammia) sp., Lochmaeotrochus sp., Enallopsammia sp., Crispatotrochussp.1 and Crispatotrochus sp.2. The δ13C (−7.36‰ to −1.15‰, V-PDB) and 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.709126–0.709184) indicated that CWC aragonite skeletons had been precipitated from seawater without the involvement of seeping fluids. The presence and growth of CWCs on the slopes of the submarine seamounts in the south-western (SW) Dongsha area could be directly linked with the hard substrates provided by exhumed hydrocarbon-imprinted authigenic carbonates and fed by the food particles enhanced by high-velocity internal tides and near-bottom currents. A multi-step process for CWC colonization was proposed that encompassed cold-seepage processes as a driver for hard-substrate generation of CWC, as well as the subsequent settlement and maintenance of CWC larvae under the persistent influence of bottom currents.
Without drastic efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate globalized stressors, tropical coral reefs are in jeopardy. Strategic conservation and management requires identification of the environmental and socioeconomic factors driving the persistence of scleractinian coral assemblages—the foundation species of coral reef ecosystems. Here, we compiled coral abundance data from 2,584 Indo-Pacific reefs to evaluate the influence of 21 climate, social and environmental drivers on the ecology of reef coral assemblages. Higher abundances of framework-building corals were typically associated with: weaker thermal disturbances and longer intervals for potential recovery; slower human population growth; reduced access by human settlements and markets; and less nearby agriculture. We therefore propose a framework of three management strategies (protect, recover or transform) by considering: (1) if reefs were above or below a proposed threshold of >10% cover of the coral taxa important for structural complexity and carbonate production; and (2) reef exposure to severe thermal stress during the 2014–2017 global coral bleaching event. Our findings can guide urgent management efforts for coral reefs, by identifying key threats across multiple scales and strategic policy priorities that might sustain a network of functioning reefs in the Indo-Pacific to avoid ecosystem collapse.
- In the Mediterranean Sea, gorgonians are among the main habitat‐forming species of benthic communities on the continental shelf and slope, playing an important ecological role in coral gardens.
- In areas where bottom trawling is restricted, gorgonians represent one of the main components of trammel net bycatch. Since gorgonians are long‐lived and slow‐growing species, impacts derived from fishing activities can have far‐reaching and long‐lasting effects, jeopardizing their long‐term viability. Thus, mitigation and ecological restoration initiatives focusing on gorgonian populations on the continental shelf are necessary to enhance and speed up their natural recovery.
- Bycatch gorgonians from artisanal fishermen were transplanted into artificial structures, which were then deployed at 85 m depth on the outer continental shelf of the marine protected area of Cap de Creus (north‐west Mediterranean Sea, Spain). After 1 year, high survival rates of transplanted colonies (87.5%) were recorded with a hybrid remotely operated vehicle.
- This pilot study shows, for the first time, the survival potential of bycatch gorgonians once returned to their habitat on the continental shelf, and suggests the potential success of future scaled‐up restoration activities.
Active coral restoration typically involves two interventions: crossing gametes to facilitate sexual larval propagation; and fragmenting, growing, and outplanting adult colonies to enhance asexual propagation. From an evolutionary perspective, the goal of these efforts is to establish self‐sustaining, sexually reproducing coral populations that have sufficient genetic and phenotypic variation to adapt to changing environments. Here, we provide concrete guidelines to help restoration practitioners meet this goal for most Caribbean species of interest. To enable the persistence of coral populations exposed to severe selection pressure from many stressors, a mixed provenance strategy is suggested: genetically unique colonies (genets) should be sourced both locally as well as from more distant, environmentally distinct sites. Sourcing 3‐4 genets per reef along environmental gradients should be sufficient to capture a majority of intraspecies genetic diversity. It is best for practitioners to propagate genets with one or more phenotypic traits that are predicted to be valuable in the future, such as low partial mortality, high would healing rate, high skeletal growth rate, bleaching resilience, infectious disease resilience, and high sexual reproductive output. Some effort should also be reserved for underperforming genets because colonies that grow poorly in nurseries sometimes thrive once returned to the reef and may harbor genetic variants with as yet unrecognized value. Outplants should be clustered in groups of 4‐6 genets to enable successful fertilization upon maturation. Current evidence indicates that translocating genets among distant reefs is unlikely to be problematic from a population genetic perspective but will likely provide substantial adaptive benefits. Similarly, inbreeding depression is not a concern given that current practices only raise first‐generation offspring. Thus, proceeding with the proposed management strategies even in the absence of a detailed population genetic analysis of the focal species at sites targeted for restoration is the best course of action. These basic guidelines should help maximize the adaptive potential of reef‐building corals facing a rapidly changing environment.
Despite widespread climate-driven reductions of coral cover on tropical reefs, little attention has been paid to the possibility that changes in the geographic distribution of coral recruitment could facilitate beneficial responses to the changing climate through latitudinal range shifts. To address this possibility, we compiled a global database of normalized densities of coral recruits on settlement tiles (corals m-2) deployed from 1974 to 2012, and used the data therein to test for latitudinal range shifts in the distribution of coral recruits. In total, 92 studies provided 1253 records of coral recruitment, with 77% originating from settlement tiles immersed for 3-24 mo, herein defined as long-immersion tiles (LITs); the limited temporal and geographic coverage of data from short-immersion tiles (SITs; deployed for <3 mo) made them less suitable for the present purpose. The results from LITs show declines in coral recruitment, on a global scale (i.e. 82% from 1974 to 2012) and throughout the tropics (85% reduction at <20° latitude), and increases in the sub-tropics (78% increase at >20° latitude). These trends indicate that a global decline in coral recruitment has occurred since 1974, and the persistent reduction in the densities of recruits in equatorial latitudes, coupled with increased densities in sub-tropical latitudes, suggests that coral recruitment may be shifting poleward.
Effects of combined rising sea temperature and increasing sea level on coral reefs, both factors associated with global warming, have rarely been addressed. In this ~40 y study of shallow reefs in the eastern Indian Ocean, we show that a rising relative sea level, currently estimated at ~11 mm y−1, has not only promoted coral cover but also has potential to limit damaging effects of thermally-induced bleaching. In 2010 the region experienced the most severe bleaching on record with corals subject to sea temperatures of >31 °C for 7 weeks. While the reef flats studied have a common aspect and are dominated by a similar suite of coral species, there was considerable spatial variation in their bleaching response which corresponded with reef-flat depth. Greatest loss of coral cover and community structure disruption occurred on the shallowest reef flats. Damage was less severe on the deepest reef flat where corals were subject to less aerial exposure, rapid flushing and longer submergence in turbid waters. Recovery of the most damaged sites took only ~8 y. While future trajectories of these resilient reefs will depend on sea-level anomalies, and frequency of extreme bleaching the positive role of rising sea level should not be under-estimated.
Expected temperature rise and seawater pH decrease may affect marine organism fitness. By a transplant experiment involving air-temperature manipulation along a natural CO2 gradient, we investigated the effects of high pCO2 (~1100 μatm) and elevated temperature (up to +2 °C than ambient conditions) on the reproductive success, recruitment, growth, shell chemical composition and oxygen consumption of the early life stages of the intertidal reef-building vermetid Dendropoma cristatum. Reproductive success was predominantly affected by temperature increase, with encapsulated embryos exhibiting higher survival in control than elevated temperature conditions, which were in turn unaffected by altered seawater pH levels. Decreasing pH (alone or in combination with temperature) significantly affected the shell growth and shell chemical composition of both embryos and recruits. Elevated temperatures along with lower pH led to decreases of ~30% oxygen consumption and ~60% recruitment. Our results suggest that the early life stages of the reef-builder D. cristatum are highly sensitive to expected environmental change, with major consequences on the intertidal vermetid reefs they build and indirectly on the high biodiversity levels they support.