The relationship between the coral genotype and the environment is an important area of research in degraded coral reef ecosystems. We used a reciprocal outplanting experiment with 930 corals representing ten genotypes on each of eight reefs to investigate the influence of genotype and the environment on growth and survivorship in the threatened Caribbean staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis. Coral genotype and site were strong drivers of coral growth and individual genotypes exhibited flexible, non-conserved reaction norms, complemented by ten-fold differences in growth between specific G-E combinations. Growth plasticity may diminish the influence of local adaptation, where foreign corals grew faster than native corals at their home sites. Novel combinations of environment and genotype also significantly affected disturbance response during and after the 2015 bleaching event, where these factors acted synergistically to drive variation in bleaching and recovery. Importantly, small differences in temperature stress elicit variable patterns of survivorship based on genotype and illustrate the importance of novel combinations of coral genetics and small differences between sites representing habitat refugia. In this context, acclimatization and flexibility is especially important given the long lifespan of corals coping with complex environmental change. The combined influence of site and genotype creates shortterm differences in growth and survivorship, contributing to the standing genetic variation needed for adaptation to occur over longer timescales and the recovery of degraded reefs through natural mechanisms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)