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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI
Doing Business As Name:University of Miami
PD/PI:
  • Dana E Williams
  • (305) 361-4569
  • dwilliams@rsmas.miami.edu
Award Date:01/05/2015
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 18,225
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 18,225
  • FY 2015=$18,225
Start Date:01/15/2015
End Date:12/31/2015
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:RAPID: Collaborative Research: Surviving Climate Change - The Role of Acclimatization in Reef-Building Corals
Federal Award ID Number:1516411
DUNS ID:152764007
Parent DUNS ID:004146619
Program:BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY

Awardee Location

Street:4600 RICKENBACKER CSWY
City:Key Biscayne
State:FL
ZIP:33149-1031
County:Key Biscayne
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:27

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Miami, RSMAS
Street:4600 Rickenbacker Cswy
City:Key Biscayne
State:FL
ZIP:33149-1031
County:Key Biscayne
Country:US
Cong. District:27

Abstract at Time of Award

August of 2014 was the warmest on record for the Florida Keys reef tract and by early September numerous corals species were severely stressed and looked bleached. This ongoing large-scale bleaching event provides an unprecedented opportunity to understand if prior stress exposure hardens individual coral colonies to future hot water events -- a process called acclimatization. This study combines long-term monitoring data of individual coral colonies with a stress experiment in the summer of 2015 to determine whether partially bleached colonies have acclimatized, to what extent, and by what means. The answers may fundamentally shape our understanding of how reefs might survive climate change. This is important because tropical coral reefs harbor more species then tropical rainforests and generate billions of dollars each year for local and national economies. The focal species of this project is the endangered elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata and results of the work can be used directly by managers when choosing coral colonies for conservation. The project will educate and train the public and public institutions on numerous levels. The scientists have partnered with the Coral Restoration Foundation, a non-for profit organization that delivers scientific knowledge and hands on experience in coral restoration to over 300 high school students per year. Postdoctoral scholars, and students are an integral part of this project and will receive training in field and laboratory work and lecture courses. Acclimatization is a non-genetic process by which an individual heightens its tolerance after exposure to a stressor, such as temperature anomalies. Recent work has shown that acclimatization may be an important process by which corals may survive climate change. However, because reef-building corals harbor endosymbiotic Symbiodinium, discerning the relative contribution of host and symbiont to acclimatization can be difficult. The endangered Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, has an uncomplicated symbiosis: it associates with just one symbiont species (Symbiodinium fitti) and most colonies also harbor only one strain of S. fitti over space and time. August of 2014 was the warmest on record for the Florida Keys reef tract and by early September numerous corals species were severely stressed and looked bleached. This event provides an unprecedented opportunity to understand the role of acclimatization in reef corals. Initial surveys of A. palmata documented a range of bleaching response. This response varied between reefs but also within single, monoclonal stands of A. palmata. Thus, coral clone mates were observed to exhibit different bleaching susceptibilities despite indications that they share identical (clonal) symbiont communities, begging the question as to what mechanisms account for such differences. The answers may fundamentally shape our understanding of how reefs might survive climate change. Immediate support is requested to sample coral colonies while they are still bleached and for which long term performance histories exist. Results from this initial assessment are essential to inform the centerpiece of the proposal: a stress experiment to determine whether partially bleached colonies have acclimatized, to what extent, and by what means.


Project Outcomes Report

Disclaimer

This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

In summer of 2014 and again in 2015, a coral bleaching event associated with anomalously warm seawater temperatures severely impacted elkhorn coral in the Florida Keys (USA). Water temperatures on the reef reached 1 degree Celsius above typical summer temperatures for several weeks at these reef sites. Surveys of this threatened coral documented a range of bleaching responses; colonies ranged from fully bleached (solid white) to partly bleached, to apparently unaffected. Bleaching response varied between reefs but also within single, monoclonal stands of A. palmata and even within a single colony. The variability in bleaching response could not be completely explained by apparent environmental differences (temperature and light) nor host genotype. This project aimed to explore the role of coral symbionts in the host’s bleaching susceptibility by sampling elkhorn coral tissue documented to exhibit a range of bleaching responses. Further, the consecutive thermal stress events provided an opportunity to evaluate potential acclimatization in this coral.

Micro-tissue samples were collected in 2014 and 2015 from monitored elkhorn coral colonies with documented bleaching response during thermal stress events. In most cases multiple samples were collected from different parts of the same colony to evaluate within-colony scale variability. In an ongoing component of this project, these samples are being analyzed to identify the genotype of both host and zooxanthellae, and compare the microbiome across samples to identify any correlation with bleaching response both within and between colonies. Understanding the variable bleaching response in elkhorn coral may reveal stands that are more resilient to bleaching which could improve management and propagation success of this threatened species. 

 


Last Modified: 03/30/2016
Modified by: Dana E Williams

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