Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 4, pp 889–899 | Cite as

White but not bleached: photophysiological evidence from white Montastraea cavernosa reveals potential overestimation of coral bleaching

  • Igor C. S. CruzEmail author
  • Miguel C. Leal
  • Carlos R. Mendes
  • Ruy K. P. Kikuchi
  • Rui Rosa
  • Amadeu M. V. M. Soares
  • João Serôdio
  • Ricardo Calado
  • Rui J. M. Rocha
Original Paper


Climate change and other types of environmental stress are known to increase corals’ vulnerability to bleaching, a process whereby colonies lose their colour either due to the loss of photosynthetic symbionts or their pigments. Although bleaching leaves the coral skeleton visible under its transparent tissue, not all white coral colonies display this feature. This raises the question as to whether all ‘white’-shaded colonies are indeed bleached. Within this context, Montastraea cavernosa colonies of different colour types (dark brown, light brown, bleached and white) were sampled for photobiological evaluation. Here, we show that, while the conventional spectral reflectance techniques failed to discriminate white from bleached colonies, chlorophyll fluorescence, photosynthetic pigment profile and Symbiodinium density enabled a clear distinction between these shades. Subsequently, video transects from reef monitoring surveys at Todos os Santos Bay (Brazil) revealed that the proportion of bleached and white colonies is similar, thus suggesting that current coral reef surveys may be overestimating the bleaching of M. cavernosa by nearly twofold.


Normalize Difference Vegetation Index Photosynthetic Pigment Coral Bleaching White Coloni Video Transect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



ICSC was supported by a PhD scholarship (Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa, No 556755/2010-3), as well as MCL (SFRH/BD/63783/2009, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), QREN-POPH–Type 4.1–Advanced Training, subsidized by the European Social Fund and national funds MCTES). RKPK benefits from CNPq fellowship (PQ 1D), CRM was funded by a postdoc grant from CAPES (Brazil), and RJMR was supported by a postdoc scholarship (BPD/UI88/6077/2014), integrated in the project ‘CENTRO–07–ST24–FEDER–002033: Sustainable Use of Marine Resources–MARES’. This work was supported by European Funds through project SymbioCoRe (FP7–PEOPLE–2011–IRSES, 295191) and COMPETE, and national funds through FCT within project Pest-C/MAR/LA0017/2013. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments to improve the manuscript and to Maria Silva from the University of St. Andrews (UK) for guidance on statistical analysis.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 21670 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MPG 26300 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Igor C. S. Cruz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Miguel C. Leal
    • 2
  • Carlos R. Mendes
    • 3
  • Ruy K. P. Kikuchi
    • 4
  • Rui Rosa
    • 5
  • Amadeu M. V. M. Soares
    • 2
  • João Serôdio
    • 2
  • Ricardo Calado
    • 2
  • Rui J. M. Rocha
    • 2
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e EvoluçãoUniversidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro-UERJRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Biologia & CESAMUniversidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal
  3. 3.Instituto de OceanografiaUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG)Rio GrandeBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de OceanografiaUniversidade Federal da Bahia, Instituto de GeociênciasSalvadorBrazil
  5. 5.Laboratório Marítimo da Guia, Centro de OceanografiaFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaCascaisPortugal

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