Contrasting patterns of changes in abundance following a bleaching event between juvenile and adult scleractinian corals


Coral bleaching events have caused extensive mortality on reefs around the world. Juvenile corals are generally less affected by bleaching than their conspecific adults and therefore have the potential to buffer population declines and seed recovery. Here, we use juvenile and adult abundance data at 20 sites encircling Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, before and after the 2016 bleaching event to quantify: (1) correlates of changes in juvenile abundance following a bleaching event; (2) differences in susceptibility to extreme thermal stress between juveniles and adults. Declines in juvenile abundance were lower at sites closer to the 20-m-depth contour and higher for Acropora and Pocillopora juveniles than for other taxa. Juveniles of Acropora and Goniastrea were less susceptible to bleaching than adults, but the opposite was true for Pocillopora spp. and taxa in the family Merulinidae. Our results indicate that the potential of the juvenile life stage to act as a buffer during bleaching events is taxon-dependent.

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We thank the Lizard Island Research Station staff for their support. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. Funding was provided by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CE140100020) and the Templeton Foundation (Grant #60501, ‘Putting the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis to the Test’). MD is grateful to the Scottish Funding Council (MASTS, grant reference HR09011) and the European Research Council (grant BioTIME). The study was partially supported by Australian Research Council grants DP1093448 and FT110100609.

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Correspondence to Mariana Álvarez-Noriega.

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Álvarez-Noriega, M., Baird, A.H., Bridge, T.C.L. et al. Contrasting patterns of changes in abundance following a bleaching event between juvenile and adult scleractinian corals. Coral Reefs 37, 527–532 (2018).

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  • Coral reefs
  • Climate change
  • Ecology
  • Thermal stress
  • Juvenile corals