Local management actions can increase coral resilience to thermally-induced bleaching

Abstract

Recent large-scale analyses suggest that local management actions may not protect coral reefs from climate change, yet most local threat-reduction strategies have not been tested experimentally. We show that removing coral predators is a common local action used by managers across the world, and that removing the corallivorous snail Coralliophila abbreviata from Caribbean brain corals (Pseudodiploria and Diploria species) before a major warming event increased coral resilience by reducing bleaching severity (resistance) and post-bleaching tissue mortality (recovery). Our results highlight the need for increased evaluation and identification of local interventions that improve coral reef resilience.

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Fig. 1: Corallivore density experiment on coral tissue loss.
Fig. 2: Effects of corallivore density on coral bleaching and mortality.

Change history

  • 21 June 2018

    In the version of this Brief Communication originally published, the two instances of ‘natural-to-high’ in the sixth and seventh paragraphs were incorrect; they should have read ‘naturally high’.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Csik and C. Fuchs for fieldwork assistance and M. Hay for reviewing this manuscript. The National Science Foundation supported E.C.S. (GRFP DGE 1106401), D.E.B. (BIO-OCE 1130786) and B.R.S. (BIO-OCE 1056980). Duke University supported E.C.S. and B.R.S., and Florida International University and the University of California, Santa Barbara supported D.E.B. We thank The Nature Conservancy's Reef Resilience Program (P. MacGowan, K. Maize, C. Wagner, E. Mcleod), S. Wear, and the Lenfest Ocean Program for helping to inspire and conduct our manager survey work. Permits FKNMS-2014-081 and 2014-099 were obtained from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to conduct this research.

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The study was conceptualized by E.C.S., D.E.B. and B.R.S. The first draft of the paper was written by E.C.S. All authors contributed to editing subsequent drafts. E.C.S. conducted the predator density experiment. D.E.B. collected data on colony bleaching and mortality. E.C.S. analysed the data and created the figures.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth C. Shaver.

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Supplementary Tables 1–3; Supplementary Figures 1–3; Supplementary References

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Shaver, E.C., Burkepile, D.E. & Silliman, B.R. Local management actions can increase coral resilience to thermally-induced bleaching. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 1075–1079 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0589-0

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