Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 9, pp 1797–1808 | Cite as

Effect of acclimatization to low temperature and reduced light on the response of reef corals to elevated temperature

  • Peter J. EdmundsEmail author
Original Paper


This study tested the effects of acclimatization on the response of corals to elevated temperature, using juvenile massive Porites spp. and branching P. irregularis from Moorea (W149°50′, S17°30′). During April and May 2006, corals were acclimatized for 15 days to cool (25.7°C) or ambient (27.7°C) temperature, under shaded (352 μmol photons m−2 s−1) or ambient (554 μmol photons m−2 s−1) natural light, and then incubated for 7 days at ambient or high temperature (31.1°C), under ambient light (659 μmol photons m−2 s−1). The response to acclimatization was assessed as biomass, maximum dark-adapted quantum yield of PSII (Fv/Fm), and growth, and the effect of the subsequent treatment was assessed as Fv/Fm and growth. Relative to the controls (i.e., ambient temperature/ambient light), massive Porites spp. responded to acclimatization through increases in biomass under ambient temperature/shade, and low temperature/ambient light, whereas P. irregularis responded through reduced growth under ambient temperature/shade, and low temperature/ambient light. Acclimatization affected the response to thermal stress for massive Porites spp. (but not P. irregularis), with an interaction between the acclimatization and subsequent treatments for growth. This interaction resulted from a lessening of the negative effects of high temperature after acclimatizing to ambient temperature/shade, but an accentuation of the effect after acclimatizing to low temperature/shade. It is possible that changes in biomass for massive Porites spp. are important in modulating the response to high temperature, with the taxonomic variation in this effect potentially resulting from differences in morphology. These results demonstrate that corals can acclimatize during short exposures to downward excursions in temperature and light, which subsequently affects their response to thermal stress. Moreover, even con-generic taxa differ in this capacity, which could affect coral community structure.


Biomass Shade Condition Thermal Acclimatization Juvenile Coral Ambient Light Condition 
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.



This research was supported by grant OCE 04-17412 from the National Science Foundation and gifts from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and was completed under a permit from the French Polynesian Ministry of Research. I am grateful to N. Davies and the staff of the UC Berkeley, Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station for making my visit to Moorea productive and enjoyable, M. Murray for field support, and my graduate students N. Muehllehner and H. Putnam for help in multiple aspects of this project. This is a contribution of the Moorea Coral Reef (MCR) LTER Site, and is contribution number 151 of the Marine Biology Program of California State University, Northridge.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary figure (DOC 48 kb)
227_2009_1213_MOESM2_ESM.doc (97 kb)
Supplementary figure (DOC 97 kb)
227_2009_1213_MOESM3_ESM.doc (82 kb)
Supplementary figure (DOC 82 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyCalifornia State UniversityNorthridgeUSA

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