Combined impacts of sea surface warming, local runoff pulses, and meso-scale Caribbean gyres on coral reef rehabilitation success: Lessons learned to cope with climate change
Hernández-Delgado, Edwin A.
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Low-tech coral aquaculture methods have been successfully used in Culebra Island, PR, since year 2003 to propagate threatened staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis). Harvested corals are being used through the Culebra Island Community-Based Coral Aquaculture and Reef Rehabilitation Program to restock their populations and rehabilitate bombcratered coral reefs. But an unprecedented sea surface warming event occurred during 2005 that caused extensive mortalities in Acroporid corals. It was followed by mass coral bleaching, runoff pulses, meso-scale gyres, and further mortality. This study documented what was the response of transplanted corals to these events. Low-tech coral transplanting was a successful tool to propagate warm water-resistant genetic strains of corals. Most colonies survived the warming event and exhibited growth rates several orders of magnitude faster than wild populations. But they were susceptible to post-bleaching mortality due to White Band Disease Type II-like outbreaks which resulted from a combination of heat stress, recurrent local sediment- and nutrient-loaded runoff pulses and recurrent increases in meso-scale nutrient concentrations due to large-scale gyres.