Reef-building corals are found across > 30° of latitude from tropical to temperate regions, where they occupy habitats greatly differing in seawater temperature and light regimes. It remains largely unknown, however, how the demography of corals differs across this gradient of environmental conditions. Variation in coral growth is especially important to coral populations, because aspects of coral demography are dependent on colony size, with both fecundity and survivorship increasing with larger colonies. Here we tested for latitudinal variation in annual growth rate and survival of juvenile corals, using 11 study locations extending from 17° S to 33° N in the West and South Pacific. Regression analyses revealed a significant decline in annual growth rates with increasing latitude, whereas no significant latitudinal pattern was detected in annual survival. Seawater temperature showed a significant and positive association with annual growth rates. Growth rates varied among the four common genera, allowing them to be ranked Acropora > Pocillopora > Porites > Dipsastraea. Acropora and Pocillopora showed more variation in growth rates across latitudes than Porites and Dipsastraea. Although the present data have limitations with regard to difference in depths, survey periods, and replication among locations, they provide evidence that a higher capacity for growth of individual colonies may facilitate population growth, and hence population recovery following disturbances, at lower latitudes. These trends are likely to be best developed in Acropora and Pocillopora, which have high rates of colony growth.
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We appreciate volunteers, students, and assistants for data collection. Y.N. especially thank H.-S. Hsieh and C.-H. Liu for data measurement, and V. Denis for his comments on the manuscript. Comments from two anonymous reviewers improve our manuscript greatly. The study was funded by the thematic research grant of Academia Sinica (23-2g) and an internal research grant of Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica to Y.N. The Okinawa survey was partly supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science through NEXT Program #GR083. Temperature data for the Okinawa site were provided by the coral reef survey of Monitoring Sites 1000 Project, operated by the Ministry of the Environment, Japan. Temperature data for Moorea were provided by the Moorea Coral Reef LTER, funded by the US National Science Foundation (OCE-0417412).
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Nozawa, Y., Villanueva, R.D., Munasik, M. et al. Latitudinal variation in growth and survival of juvenile corals in the West and South Pacific. Coral Reefs 40, 1463–1471 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-021-02169-9