Seminar Details

Coral reef resilience and refugia: Adaptation and acclimatization in marginal locations




Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley - Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, Bermuda


Coral cover has declined dramatically on reefs worldwide over the last 30 years, due in part to increasing thermal stress as warming of 1°C or less can cause tissue loss or whole-colony mortality. These losses are particularly acute on shallow water reefs of the Caribbean, where tropical corals live close to their physiological thermal maximum. Although the entire Caribbean is warming, there is substantial variation in baseline temperature, warming rate, and the frequency of extreme thermal anomalies that cause coral disease and mass bleaching across geographic distances and along a depth gradient. As a result, many regions previously considered as suboptimal for coral survival, such as mesophotic coral ecosystems and subtropical locations, may be more resilient to future global climate changes. Persistence in marginal locations, however, requires adaptation or acclimatization to localized environmental conditions, which may result in variations to morphology and/or physiology. For example, in low light conditions experienced at depth, scleractinian coral colonies are smaller and have polyps that are shallower and more widely spaced than their shallow water counterparts. If marginal locations are in fact an important life boat for coral survival, it is critical to understand the various processes regulating community composition and connectivity. Here I examine how scleractinian corals adapt and/or acclimatize to conditions experienced across vertical and geographic gradients through variations in morphology, physiology, reproduction, and connectivity. Determining how corals persist in these regions will ultimately increase our understanding of coral reef resilience and the potential role of marginal locations as refugia for coral health.

To Seminar List