Resilience to periodic disturbances and the long-term genetic stability in Acropora coral

L. Thomas, D. Şahin, A. S. Adam, C. M. Grimaldi, N. M. Ryan, S. L. Duffy, J. N. Underwood, W. J. Kennington, J. P. Gilmour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change is restructuring natural ecosystems. The direct impacts of these events on biodiversity and community structure are widely documented, but the impacts on the genetic variation of populations remains largely unknown. We monitored populations of Acropora coral on a remote coral reef system in northwest Australia for two decades and through multiple cycles of impact and recovery. We combined these demographic data with a temporal genetic dataset of a common broadcast spawning corymbose Acropora to explore the spatial and temporal patterns of connectivity underlying recovery. Our data show that broad-scale dispersal and post-recruitment survival drive recovery from recurrent disturbances, including mass bleaching and mortality. Consequently, genetic diversity and associated patterns of connectivity are maintained through time in the broader metapopulation. The results highlight an inherent resilience in these globally threatened species of coral and showcase their ability to cope with multiple disturbances, given enough time to recover is permitted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number410
Number of pages6
JournalCommunications Biology
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2024


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