Coral Bleaching in Hawai’i A Window into Reefs of the Future

Meeting Abstract

109-3  Thursday, Jan. 7 08:30  Coral Bleaching in Hawai’i: A Window into Reefs of the Future RITSON-WILLIAMS, R.*; GATES, R. D.; Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology; Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

Coral bleaching is increasing in frequency and extent at reef locations around the world. The last documented coral bleaching in Hawai’i was 1996, but in both 2014 and 2015 corals throughout Hawai’i experienced extensive bleaching. On Oahu, field surveys in 2014 showed that reefs in Kaneohe Bay experienced 40-80% bleaching. In October 2014, 150 coral colonies were tagged and monitored for their health during and after the bleaching event. Only two colonies of Montipora capitata and one colony of Pocillopora damicornis died from bleaching. Porites compressa and Pocillopora damicornis appeared fully recovered by January 2015, but Montipora capitata had significantly slower recovery. Some corals never bleached during this event, suggesting adaptation or acclimation to thermal stress. This natural variation in thermal resistance can provide insight into the mechanisms that corals use to resist climate change. Using next generation sequencing techniques we are testing for genetic adaptation (RADseq) and physiological acclimation (RNAseq) by comparing healthy and bleached corals exposed to the same abiotic conditions. There is a pressing need to understand coral genetic and physiological mechanisms of thermal tolerance to better manage for reef resilience in the face of climate change.

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