Host genotype and stable differences in algal symbiont communities explain patterns of thermal stress response of Montipora capitata following thermal pre-exposure and across multiple bleaching events

Jenna Dilworth, Carlo Caruso, Valerie A. Kahkejian, Andrew C. Baker, Crawford Drury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

As sea surface temperatures increase worldwide due to climate change, coral bleaching events are becoming more frequent and severe, resulting in reef degradation. Leveraging the inherent ability of reef-building corals to acclimatize to thermal stress via pre-exposure to protective temperature treatments may become an important tool in improving the resilience of coral reefs to rapid environmental change. We investigated whether historical bleaching phenotype, coral host genotype, and exposure to protective temperature treatments would affect the response of the Hawaiian coral Montipora capitata to natural thermal stress. Fragments were collected from colonies that demonstrated different bleaching responses during the 2014–2015 event in Kāne‘ohe Bay (O‘ahu, Hawai‘i) and exposed to four different artificial temperature pre-treatments (and a control at ambient temperature). After recovery, fragments experienced a natural thermal stress event either in laboratory conditions or their native reef environment. Response to thermal stress was quantified by measuring changes in the algal symbionts’ photochemical efficiency, community composition, and relative density. Historical bleaching phenotype was reflected in stable differences in symbiont community composition, with historically bleached corals containing only Cladocopium symbionts and historically non-bleached corals having mixed symbiont communities dominated by Durusdinium. Mixed-community corals lost more Cladocopium than Cladocopium-only corals during the natural thermal stress event and preferentially recovered with Durusdinium. Laboratory pre-treatments exposed corals to more thermal stress than anticipated, causing photochemical damage that varied significantly by genotype. While none of the treatments had a protective effect, temperature variation during treatments had a significant detrimental effect on photochemical efficiency during the thermal stress event. These results show that acclimatization potential is affected by fine-scale differences in temperature regime, host genotype, and relatively stable differences in symbiont community composition that underpin historical bleaching phenotypes in M. capitata.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-163
Number of pages13
JournalCoral Reefs
Volume40
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Acclimatization
  • Algal symbionts
  • Climate change
  • Coral bleaching
  • Genotypic variation
  • Thermal tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

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