New SPCMSC publication provides evidence of exceptional coral performance in Dry Tortugas National Park

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USGS research published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science reveals differences in coral tolerance to heat stress across Florida Keys reef sites, which can inform partners working on reef restoration.

Coral bleaching in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, October 2015 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Two colonies of the mustard hill coral, Porites astreoides, one apparently healthy (left) and one visibly bleached (right) during a coral-bleaching event at Hen and Chickens Sanctuary Preservation Area, Plantation Key, FL, USA. (Credit: Ilsa B. Kuffner, Ph.D., USGS. Public domain.)

Coral reefs are degrading from stress caused by warming oceans and diseases, but some reefs still exist where corals are doing relatively better than others. Elizabeth Lenz, Former USGS-National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP) Fellow, and Ilsa Kuffner, Marine Biologist, led a team to investigate coral performance at four sites throughout Dry Tortugas National Park and the Florida Keys. This research revealed that mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) in the Dry Tortugas grew faster, produced more larvae, and had thicker tissues than corals at other Florida Keys reef sites. In addition, the corals in Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Parks showed less heat-stress impacts and tissue mortality resulting from the high temperatures experienced in the late summer of 2015 than corals in the middle and lower sections of the Florida Keys. The USGS corals team has been measuring calcification rates and coral growth throughout the Florida Keys since 2009. Having the additional collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Lenz, then University of Hawaii graduate student, allowed the study to delve deeper into the physiological response of the corals during the high-temperature stress. Identifying reefs that may serve as heat-stress refugia, such as the Dry Tortugas, is important in selecting sites for reef restoration strategies to increase coral adaptation to ocean warming.

To read the paper visit: "Physiological Differences in Bleaching Response of the Coral Porites astreoides Along the Florida Keys Reef Tract During High-Temperature Stress."

To read about USGS - NSF Graduate Student Internships visit: https://www.usgs.gov/science-support/osqi/nsf-usgs-internship/usgs-nsf-graduate-student-internships

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Date published: October 5, 2018
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