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Marine ecology

Bleaching patterns in reef corals


Coral reefs are under threat from the effects of bleaching, in which symbiotic algae or their photosynthetic pigments are destroyed by increased sea temperatures and solar radiation1,2. Here we show that the bleaching susceptibility of Goniastrea aspera, a shallow-water Indo-Pacific coral, can be predicted from its history of exposure to solar radiation, demonstrating how experience can shape coral bleaching patterns.

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Figure 1: Daily dose of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) underwater at the depth of G. aspera colonies in 1995.
Figure 2: Physiological parameters in east and west cores of G. aspera before and after exposure to elevated (34 °C) and ambient (27 °C) temperatures for 68 h at an irradiance of 100 μmol m−2 s−1.


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Brown, B., Dunne, R., Goodson, M. et al. Bleaching patterns in reef corals. Nature 404, 142–143 (2000).

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