Recruitment and mortality of the temperate coral Cladocora caespitosa: implications for the recovery of endangered populations
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Long-lived species are characterized by low recruitment and mortality. In these species, longevity buffers low recruitment, but when catastrophic disturbances alter mortality, recruitment becomes critical for population recovery. In this study, we assessed basic biological traits—recruitment, post-settlement growth, and the mortality of juvenile corals—and related these factors to the adult mortality of one of the most important populations of the Mediterranean reef-building coral Cladocora caespitosa over a period of 6 yr. Adult mortality and recruitment rates were low (~1 % and 0.30 recruits m−2 yr−1, respectively), whereas the juvenile colony mortality was comparatively high (29 % in the smallest size-class, <5 polyps). The low recruitment rates will hardly balance the recurrent climate-related mortality that has affected this population. Conservation plans and inclusion in the protection lists are urgently needed, given the escalating threats and slow dynamics of this species.
KeywordsRecruitment Mortality Cladocora caespitosa Long-lived species Mediterranean Sea
We acknowledge M. Zabala for continuous encouragement during this study and C. Casado for her assistance in the field. We thank the Secretaría General de Pesca (MAGRAMA) and the Columbretes Islands Marine Reserve staff for their logistic support. The study has been partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Innovation through the Biorock Project (CTM2009–08045), the SMART Project (CGL2012-32194), a Ramón y Cajal contract to CL (RyC-2011-08134) and a Beatriu de Pinós contract to NT (2009-BP-B-00263).
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