, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 71-79
Date: 27 Sep 2012

Short-term and latent post-settlement effects associated with elevated temperature and oxidative stress on larvae from the coral Porites astreoides

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Abstract

Coral reefs across the Caribbean are undergoing unprecedented rates of decline in coral cover during the last three decades, and coral recruitment is one potential process that could aid the recovery of coral populations. To better understand the effects of climate change on coral larval ecology, the larvae of Porites astreoides were studied to determine the immediate and post-settlement effects of elevated temperature and associated oxidative stress. Larvae of Porites astreoides were exposed to 27 °C (ambient) and +3.0 °C (elevated temperature) seawater for a short duration of 24 h; then, a suite of physiological parameters were measured to determine the extent of sublethal stress. Following the +3.0 °C treatment, larvae did not show a significant difference in maximum quantum yield of PSII (F v/F m) or respiratory demand when compared to controls maintained at 27 °C. The addition of micromolar concentrations of hydrogen peroxide did not impact respiration or photochemical efficiency. Catalase activity in the larvae increased (>60 %) following exposure to elevated temperature when compared to the controls. Short-term larval survival and settlement and metamorphosis were not affected by increased temperature or the H2O2 treatment. However, the settled spat that were exposed to elevated temperature underwent a 99 % reduction in survival compared to 90 % reduction for the control spat when examined 24 days following the deployment of 4-day-old settled spat on settlement tiles in the field. These results show that short-term exposure to some stressors might have small impacts on coral physiology, and no effects on larval survival, settlement and metamorphosis. However, due to post-settlement mortality, these stressors can cause a significant reduction in coral recruitment.

Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Mark Vermeij