Abstract: In coral reef conservation and management, the prevailing metric of reef health is percent coral cover, a measurement commonly used with the assumption that each
unit of live coral tissue has equivalent ecological value. Here we show that the
reproductive output of a coral population is not proportional to the cover of coral present.
Instead, when compared to declining populations nearby, high cover coral populations
produced up to four times more larvae per square centimeter of tissue, resulting in up to
200 times higher larval production per square meter of reef. Importantly, corals that
produced more larvae did not produce smaller larvae, as predicted by resource allocation
theory. Instead, higher fecundity corresponded to higher energetic lipid reserves in higher
cover coral populations. In the wake of unprecedented global coral bleaching, our
findings suggest that the largest reductions in coral reproduction may occur when corals
are lost from previously healthy populations.
Author: Hartmann, A.C., K.L Marhaver, M.J Vermeij
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Conservation Letters. doi:10.1111/conl.12410