Bleaching susceptibility of aquarium corals collected across northern Australia

Morgan S. Pratchett, Ciemon F. Caballes, Stephen J. Newman, Shaun K. Wilson, Vanessa Messmer, Deborah J. Pratchett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


There are a wide range of Scleractinian corals that are collected for the global reef aquarium market, often from non-reefal environments. The sustainability of coral harvesting is potentially threatened by increasing anthropogenic disturbances and climate change, though it is unknown to what extent many commonly harvested corals are susceptible to environmental change, or actually bleach during marine heatwaves. In this study, we experimentally tested the temperature sensitivity and bleaching susceptibility of six coral species (Homophyllia australis, Micromussa lordhowensis, Catalaphyllia jardinei, Trachyphyllia geoffroyi, Duncanopsammia axifuga, and Euphyllia glabrescens), which are important components of the aquarium coral fisheries across northern Australia, in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and/or Queensland. Interspecific differences were evident in the temperature sensitivity and bleaching susceptibility among the study species. Homophyllia australis, and M. lordhowensis were found to be particularly susceptible to elevated temperatures, whereby all corals subjected to elevated temperatures died within the course of the experimental treatment (75 d). Catalaphyllia jardinei and E. glabrescens also exhibited significant increases in mortality when exposed to elevated temperatures, though some of the corals did survive, and C. jardinei mostly died only after exposure to elevated temperatures. The other species (T. geoffroyi and D. axifuga) exhibited marked bleaching when exposed to elevated temperatures, but mortality of these corals was similar to that of conspecifics held at ambient temperatures. This study highlights the potential for environmental change to impact the sustainability and viability of Australian coral harvest fisheries. More importantly, this study highlights the need for specific and targeted in situ monitoring for important stocks of coral fishery target species, to assess their vulnerability to fishery and fishery-independent effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-673
Number of pages11
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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