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Quantifying life history demographics of the scleractinian coral genus Pocillopora at Palmyra Atoll

TitleQuantifying life history demographics of the scleractinian coral genus Pocillopora at Palmyra Atoll
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsKodera S.M, Edwards C.B, Petrovic V., Pedersen N.E, Eynaud Y., Sandin SA
Date Published2020/04
Type of ArticleArticle; Early Access
ISBN Number0722-4028
Accession NumberWOS:000530235700001
Keywordsage; conservation; coral reefs; growth; Large-area imagery; life history; long-term; Marine & Freshwater Biology; model; partial mortality; patterns; pocillopora; population-dynamics; reef-building corals; regeneration; size

Characterizations of colony-specific fate are necessary to predict trajectories of coral population change accurately, and a research challenge exists to collect more robust data describing coral demographic rates and the factors that influence them. Colonial, reef-building corals present challenges to the study of demography, given that the size of individual colonies can be decoupled from age, and rates of colony growth and shrinkage can be effectively indeterminate. In this study, we use a large-area imaging approach to quantify demographic rates of the coral genus Pocillopora and test for the influence of colony-specific predictors on net change in live tissue area (labeled growth and shrinkage) and whole-colony mortality. We found that a colony's fate was linked to its initial size, with larger colonies experiencing far lower probability of mortality, but higher probability of shrinkage, than smaller colonies. Historical effects also significantly affected colony fate, as colonies with a recent history of tissue loss experienced a higher probability of subsequent shrinkage and mortality the following year. Finally, significant variability in growth and mortality rates was linked to intra-island site differences, which we hypothesize may be driven by differences in food availability and heterotrophic feeding rates. Our work highlights the importance of colony-specific characteristics, including size and historical effects, in influencing demographic fates of corals.

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