All Publications

  • Persistence of phenotypic responses to short-term heat stress in the tabletop coral Acropora hyacinthus. PloS one Walker, N. S., Cornwell, B. H., Nestor, V., Armstrong, K. C., Golbuu, Y., Palumbi, S. R. 2022; 17 (9): e0269206


    Widespread mapping of coral thermal resilience is essential for developing effective management strategies and requires replicable and rapid multi-location assays of heat resistance and recovery. One- or two-day short-term heat stress experiments have been previously employed to assess heat resistance, followed by single assays of bleaching condition. We tested the reliability of short-term heat stress resistance, and linked resistance and recovery assays, by monitoring the phenotypic response of fragments from 101 Acropora hyacinthus colonies located in Palau (Micronesia) to short-term heat stress. Following short-term heat stress, bleaching and mortality were recorded after 16 hours, daily for seven days, and after one and two months of recovery. To follow corals over time, we utilized a qualitative, non-destructive visual bleaching score metric that correlated with standard symbiont retention assays. The bleaching state of coral fragments 16 hours post-heat stress was highly indicative of their state over the next 7 days, suggesting that symbiont population sizes within corals may quickly stabilize post-heat stress. Bleaching 16 hours post-heat stress predicted likelihood of mortality over the subsequent 3-5 days, after which there was little additional mortality. Together, bleaching and mortality suggested that rapid assays of the phenotypic response following short-term heat stress were good metrics of the total heat treatment effect. Additionally, our data confirm geographic patterns of intraspecific variation in Palau and show that bleaching severity among colonies was highly correlated with mortality over the first week post-stress. We found high survival (98%) and visible recovery (100%) two months after heat stress among coral fragments that survived the first week post-stress. These findings help simplify rapid, widespread surveys of heat sensitivity in Acropora hyacinthus by showing that standardized short-term experiments can be confidently assayed after 16 hours, and that bleaching sensitivity may be linked to subsequent survival using experimental assessments.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0269206

    View details for PubMedID 36084033

  • Widespread variation in heat tolerance and symbiont load are associated with growth tradeoffs in the coral Acropora hyacinthus in Palau. eLife Cornwell, B., Armstrong, K., Walker, N. S., Lippert, M., Nestor, V., Golbuu, Y., Palumbi, S. R. 2021; 10


    Climate change is dramatically changing ecosystem composition and productivity, leading scientists to consider the best approaches to map natural resistance and foster ecosystem resilience in the face of these changes. Here we present results from a large-scale experimental assessment of coral bleaching resistance, a critical trait for coral population persistence as oceans warm, in 221 colonies of the coral Acropora hyacinthus across 37 reefs in Palau. We find that bleaching resistant individuals inhabit most reefs but are found more often in warmer microhabitats. Our survey also found wide variation in symbiont concentration among colonies, and that colonies with lower symbiont load tended to be more bleaching resistant. By contrast, our data show that low symbiont load comes at the cost of lower growth rate, a tradeoff that may operate widely among corals across environments. Corals with high bleaching resistance have been suggested as a source for habitat restoration or selective breeding in order to increase coral reef resilience to climate change. Our maps show where these resilience corals can be found, but the existence of tradeoffs with heat resistance may suggest caution in unilateral use of this one trait in restoration.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.64790

    View details for PubMedID 34387190

  • Promoting equity in scientific recommendations for high seas governance One Earth Chapman, M. S., Oestreich, W. K., Frawley, T. H., Boettiger, C., Diver, S., Santos, B. S., Scoville, C., Armstrong, K., Blondin, H., Chand, K., Haulsee, D. E., Knight, C. J., Crowder, L. B. 2021; 4 (6): 790-794