Coral Sclerochronology: Similarities and Differences in the Coral Isotopic Signatures Between Mesophotic and Shallow-Water Reefs

Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 12)


Coral sclerochronology is a powerful tool for understanding environmental and ecological changes on coral reefs. Geochemical, isotopic, and skeletal density banding analyses along the major growth axis of massive coral skeletons from tropical shallow-water reefs have been used successfully to reconstruct decadal- to centennial-scale histories of climate and coral growth with annual to seasonal resolution. However, little is known about how coral sclerochronological approaches could capture environmental and/or physiological changes in mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs), which occur at depths ranging from 30 to 150 m. We compared the oxygen and carbon isotopes and growth records of coral from upper MCEs with those from adjacent shallow reefs by examining Porites corals collected at 4 and 40 m from Okinawa, Japan, and from 5 and 50 m water depths from the Gulf of Eilat, Red Sea, Israel. Porites corals in MCEs exhibited low calcification rates, but still recorded distinct seasonal to interannual variability in oxygen and carbon isotope signals consistent with coral isotopic records on shallow reefs. The amplitudes of the seasonality in the isotopic records in corals from MCEs were larger than those expected from seasonal environmental variations and those recorded in shallow reefs, indicating that coral growth rate and/or physiological changes affected skeletal isotopic composition. Our results suggest that sclerochronological records have great potential for reconstructing environmental and ecological characteristics of MCEs. The isotopic records of MCE corals are also more influenced by physiological processes such as symbiotic photosynthesis, calcification rates, and trophic levels than their shallow-water counterparts.


Coral sclerochronology Oxygen isotope Carbon isotope Mesophotic coral ecosystems Porites corals 



We thank M. Hama, H. Kajita, and Y. Sato for sample preparation and T. Irino for assistance and maintenance of mass spectrometry used in this study. This study was supported by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) and (B) from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (No. 25257207 and No. 15H03742) to TW, the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (No. 16H02490) to SH, the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie GF grant (No. 796025) to GE and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) Grant (No. 1191/16) and USAID/MERC Grant (No. M32-037) to YL.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural History SciencesHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Kikai institute for coral reef sciencesKagoshimaJapan
  3. 3.Tropical Biosphere Research CenterUniversity of the RyukyusMotobuJapan
  4. 4.George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, School of ZoologyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  5. 5.The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in EilatEilatIsrael
  6. 6.The Steinhardt Museum of Natural HistoryIsrael National Center for Biodiversity StudiesTel AvivIsrael

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