Annual coral bleaching and the long-term recovery capacity of coral

Verena Schoepf, A.G. Grottoli, S.J. Levas, M.D. Aschaffenburg, J.H. Baumann, Y. Matsui, M.E. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Mass bleaching events are predicted to occur annually later this century. Nevertheless, it remains unknown whether corals will be able to recover between annual bleaching events. Using a combined tank and field experiment, we simulated annual bleaching by exposing three Caribbean coral species (Porites divaricata, Porites astreoides and Orbicella faveolata) to elevated temperatures for 2.5 weeks in 2 consecutive years. The impact of annual bleaching stress on chlorophyll a, energy reserves, calcification, and tissue C and N isotopes was assessed immediately after the second bleaching and after both short- and long-term recovery on the reef (1.5 and 11 months, respectively). While P. divaricata and O. faveolata were able to recover from repeat bleaching within 1 year, P. astreoides experienced cumulative damage that prevented full recovery within this time frame, suggesting that repeat bleaching had diminished its recovery capacity. Specifically, P. astreoides was not able to recover protein and carbohydrate concentrations. As energy reserves promote bleaching resistance, failure to recover from annual bleaching within 1 year will likely result in the future demise of heat-sensitive coral species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1819
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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