The effect of thermal history on the susceptibility of reef-building corals to thermal stress

Middlebrook, R., Hoegh-Guldberg, O. and Leggat, W. (2008) The effect of thermal history on the susceptibility of reef-building corals to thermal stress. Journal of Experimental Biology, 211 7: 1050-1056. doi:10.1242/jeb.013284

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Author Middlebrook, R.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O.
Leggat, W.
Title The effect of thermal history on the susceptibility of reef-building corals to thermal stress
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
Publication date 2008-04-01
Year available 2008
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.013284
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 211
Issue 7
Start page 1050
End page 1056
Total pages 7
Editor Hoopeler, H.
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher The Company of Biologists Ltd.
Language eng
Subject C1
961104 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water in Marine Environments
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)
Abstract The mutualistic relationship between corals and their unicellular dinoflagellate symbionts (Symbiodinium sp.) is a fundamental component within the ecology of coral reefs. Thermal stress causes the breakdown of the relationship between corals and their symbionts (bleaching). As with other organisms, this symbiosis may acclimate to changes in the environment, thereby potentially modifying the environmental threshold at which they bleach. While a few studies have examined the acclimation capacity of reef-building corals, our understanding of the underlying mechanism is still in its infancy. The present study focused on the role of recent thermal history in influencing the response of both corals and symbionts to thermal stress, using the reef-building coral Acropora aspera. The symbionts of corals that were exposed to 31 degrees C for 48 h (pre-stress treatment) 1 or 2 weeks prior to a 6-day simulated bleaching event (when corals were exposed to 34 degrees C) were found to have more effective photoprotective mechanisms. These mechanisms included changes in non-photochemical quenching and xanthophyll cycling. These differences in photoprotection were correlated with decreased loss of symbionts, with those corals that were not prestressed performing significantly worse, losing over 40% of their symbionts and having a greater reduction in photosynthetic efficiency. These results are important in that they show that thermal history, in addition to light history, can influence the response of reef-building corals to thermal stress and therefore have implications for the modeling of bleaching events. However, whether acclimation is capable of modifying the thermal threshold of corals sufficiently to cope as sea temperatures increase in response to global warming has not been fully explored. Clearly increases in sea temperatures that extend beyond 1-2 degrees C will exhaust the extent to which acclimation can modify the thermal threshold of corals.
Keyword Biology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine - Other Topics
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2009 Higher Education Research Data Collection
Centre for Marine Studies Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 111 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 113 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Thu, 16 Apr 2009, 02:21:21 EST by Peter Fogarty on behalf of Centre for Marine Studies