Timing of Mass Spawning in Corals: Potential Influence of the Coincidence of Lunar Factors and Associated Changes in Atmospheric Pressure From Northern and Southern Hemisphere Case Studies.

Abstract: Synchronised multispecies mass spawning events are striking features of reproduction in corals. This synchronous gamete release of thousands of animals over vast stretches of reef is thought to be cued by rhythms of the Moon. However, the mechanisms are not fully understood. We propose an explanation that may contribute to understanding this mechanism, that spawning is triggered by the coincidence of two factors, each in different lunar rhythms. We investigate this proposal in case studies using seven years of coral spawning data from two locations: Kochi, Japan and Lizard Island, Australia. Our calculations show that a feature in a lunar synodic rhythm (the third quarter) will synchronise with a feature in a lunar non-synodic rhythm (the zero declination) usually once, although occasionally twice in a year. Supported by data on the date of spawning from the two locations, we suggest that this coincidence of lunar factors exerts an important influence on the timing of annual mass spawning in corals. This coincidence may be associated with low atmospheric pressure. Spawning at the time of the third lunar quarter may favour fertilisation success due to the reduced currents during neap tides associated with the lower gravitational pressure of the lunar quarters.

Author: Wolstenholme, J., Y. Nozawa, M. Byrne, W. Burke
Year: 2018
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Invertebrate Reproduction & Development. doi:10.1080/07924259.2018.1434245

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Plastic Waste Associated With Disease On Coral Reefs

Abstract: Plastic waste can promote microbial colonization by pathogens implicated in outbreaks of disease in the ocean. We assessed the influence of plastic waste on disease risk in 124,000 reef-building corals from 159 reefs in the Asia-Pacific region. The likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic. Structurally complex corals are eight times more likely to be affected by plastic, suggesting that microhabitats for reef-associated organisms and valuable fisheries will be disproportionately affected. Plastic levels on coral reefs correspond to estimates of terrestrial mismanaged plastic waste entering the ocean. We estimate that 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific and project this number to increase 40% by 2025. Plastic waste management is critical for reducing diseases that threaten ecosystem health and human livelihoods.

Author: Lamb, J. B., B.L. Willis, E.A. Fiorenza, C.S. Couch, R. Howard, D.N. Rader, D. Harvell
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Science 359(6374).

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Molecular Characterization of Larval Development from Fertilization to Metamorphosis In a Reef-building Coral.

Abstract: Background- Molecular mechanisms underlying coral larval competence, the ability of larvae to respond to settlement cues, determine their dispersal potential and are potential targets of natural selection. Here, we profiled competence, fluorescence and genome-wide gene expression in embryos and larvae of the reef-building coral Acropora millepora daily throughout 12 days post-fertilization. Results- Gene expression associated with competence was positively correlated with transcriptomic response to the natural settlement cue, confirming that mature coral larvae are “primed” for settlement. Rise of competence through development was accompanied by up-regulation of sensory and signal transduction genes such as ion channels, genes involved in neuropeptide signaling, and G-protein coupled receptor (GPCRs). A drug screen targeting components of GPCR signaling pathways confirmed a role in larval settlement behavior and metamorphosis. Conclusions- These results gives insight into the molecular complexity underlying these transitions and reveals receptors and pathways that, if altered by changing environments, could affect dispersal capabilities of reef-building corals. In addition, this dataset provides a toolkit for asking broad questions about sensory capacity in multicellular animals and the evolution of development.

Author: Strader, M.E., G.V. Aglyamova, M.V Matz
Year: 2018
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BMC Genomics 19(1). doi:10.1186/s12864-017-4392-0

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Strategic Communication Mentored Online Course

Comm AnnJanuary 16 – February 8, 2018

Looking to influence behavior or raise awareness about an issue to advance your conservation efforts? A new Strategic Communication Mentored Online Course can help you communicate effectively to reach your conservation goal! This three-week mentored training, which is only a 6-8 hour time commitment, features hands-on exercises, interactive webinars and quizzes, and guidance from mentors and other managers. We’ve demystified strategic communication and simplified the planning process so you can work on your own project as you learn. This course is free and open to anyone, but is geared toward coral reef managers and practitioners. The course content can be found in the communication module.

Important Dates:

  • December 18 – January 16: Course registration is open. Registration closes January 17
  • January 16: Course orientation and introductory webinar (45 minutes)
  • January 17 – January 24: Complete three self-paced lessons and worksheets on the communication planning process: establish your goal & objectives, assess the context for your efforts, and identify your target audience(s) (~2.5 hours)
  • January 25: Webinar 2 – Review concepts and discussion (45 minutes)
  • January 26 – February 7: Complete four self-paced lessons and worksheets on the communication planning process: make your message matter, identify messengers and tactics, measure your impact, and create a summary of your plan (~3.5 hours)
  • February 8: Webinar 3 – Review concepts, discussion, and course conclusion (30 minutes)
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Assisted Evolution: A Novel Tool to Overcome the Conservation Crisis?

Assisted Evolution Announcement PhotoThis symposium was live streamed as part of the Coral Restoration Consortium webinar series in conjunction with The Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and “The Future Ocean” cluster in Kiel. Speakers shared information on new approaches for the conservation of coral reefs such as assisted colonization and assisted evolution and synthetic biology. View the presentation recordings below.


Welcome and introduction – Marlene Wall, Geomar, Germany

Session 1: Shifting paradigms in conservation: social, public and scientific landscape of conservation genetics
Objective: The aim of session 1 is to (i) discuss new approaches for the conservation of natural environments, such as assisted colonization, assisted evolution and synthetic biology and (ii) introduce the current legal, public and scientific framework of novel methods in conservation.

Session 2: Assisted evolution in corals: Opportunities, applications, challenges, and limitations
Objective: The aim is to introduce how assisted evolution might change our way of restoring natural marine environments. What new tools are available that can improve the selection of environmental stress resistance and be implemented in conservation? What are the promises and perils of such approaches?

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Coral Bleaching Futures

Coral Bleaching Futures – Downscaled Projections of Bleaching Conditions for the World’s Coral Reefs, Implications of Climate Policy and Management Responses

Increasingly frequent severe coral bleaching is among the greatest threats to coral reefs posed by climate change. Global climate models (GCMs) project great spatial variation in the timing of annual severe bleaching (ASB) conditions; a point at which reefs are certain to change and recovery will be limited. Previous model-resolution projections (approximately 1×1°) are too coarse to inform reef management planning (recognized, for example, in SAMOA Pathways, paragraph 44b). To meet the need for higher-resolution projections, this report presents statistically downscaled projections (4-km resolution) of the timing of ASB for all the world’s coral reefs using the newest generation of IPCC climate models (CMIP5). Results are reported by country and territory, grouped in bioregions based on the 10 UNEP Regional Seas programmes with coral reefs (also including countries or territories in or near the Regional Sea area but not participating in the Regional Sea).

Among the goals of the Paris Agreement adopted at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in 2015 is to hold temperature “well below” 2°C while also pursuing efforts to stay below 1.5°C. This legally binding agreement entered into force November 4, 2016. This report evaluates the implications of the Paris Agreement for coral reef futures. Projections of ASB timing are compared between business as usual scenario (RCP8.5) and RCP4.5, which could represent emissions concentrations mid-century. This report makes the projections data and main findings publicly accessible to inform management and policy planning as well as to support education and outreach. The data are currently being used to inform conservation planning in the U.S., including Florida and Hawaii, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Australia, and Malaysia.

Author: United Nations Environment Program
Year: 2017
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Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN: 978-92-807-3649-6

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A Guide to Assessing Coral Reef Resilience for Decision Support

Maintaining and restoring resilience is now a major focus of most coral reef managers around the world. A focus on resilience gives us options – and hope – in the face of new and often daunting challenges. Underpinning this is the fact that local actions can positively influence the future of coral reefs, despite powerful external forces like climate change.

As examples, coral recovery from disturbances in Bermuda and the Bahamas has been greater in recent decades than in other parts of the Caribbean. Differences in recovery rates in the Caribbean have been partially attributed to establishing and enforcing fishing regulations, especially on key herbivores such as parrotfish (Jackson et al. 2014).

Overall though, the application of resilience theory to management planning and the day-to-day business of coral reef management has been challenging. One of the key stumbling blocks has been the lack of a robust and easily implementable method for assessing coral reef resilience in a way that can inform marine spatial planning and help to prioritize the implementation of management strategies.

Our ability to assess relative resilience of coral reefs has advanced dramatically in recent years, and we are now at a point where a feasible and useful process can be recommended for use in environmental planning and management.

This Guide presents a 10-step process for completing a resilience assessment, putting into managers’ hands the means to assess, map and monitor coral reef resilience, and the means to identify and prioritize actions that support resilience in the face of climate change. The guidance presented here represents the culmination of over a decade of experience and builds on ideas first presented by West and Salm (2003), Obura and Grimsditch (2009), and McClanahan and coauthors (2012). The resilience assessment process described in the Guide has been applied by the author group in Australia, Florida, CNMI, Guam, Palau, Indonesia, the Cayman Islands, and US Virgin Islands and in many other reef locations by other groups.

This guide is first and foremost intended for the individuals in charge of commissioning, planning, leading or coordinating a resilience assessment. The Guide also provides a resource for ‘reef managers’ of all kinds, including decision-makers, environmental planners and managers in coral reef areas, with influence over pressures affecting coral reefs. Outreach coordinators and educators working in coral reef areas may also benefit from the Guide, and they can participate in parts of the resilience assessment process, but the Guide focuses on the needs of decision-makers and the scientists who support them.

Author: Maynard, J.A., P.A. Marshall, B. Parker, E. Mcleod, G. Ahmadia, R. van Hooidonk, S. Planes, G.J. Williams, L. Raymundo, R. Beeden, J. Tamelander
Year: 2017
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ISBN No: 978-92-807-3650-2

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Adaptation Design Tool Online Course Announcement

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Ready to get practical with adapting your management activities in light of climate change, but wondering how to organize what can be a complicated ‘adaptation design’ process? A new course, Corals & Climate Adaptation Planning: Adaptation Design Tool, can help you as a coral reef manager incorporate climate-smart design into your management activities.

This month-long mentored training (8-10 hour time commitment) features interactive lessons, hands-on exercises, webinars, and interaction with experts and other managers. Using real-world examples, you will be guided through the process of incorporating climate change adaptation into a management plan, first using existing planned actions as a starting point, and then through the development of additional climate-smart strategies as needed.

The lessons are based on the user guide, Adaptation Design Tool: Corals & Climate Adaptation Planning, which was developed as a collaborative project of the Climate Change Working Group of the interagency U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and The Nature Conservancy.

This course was designed for coral reef managers but is also fully transferable for use with other systems and applications, such as wetland and watershed management planning. Everyone is welcome!

Important Dates:

  • Course Dates: October 16 – November 17, 2017
  • September 25 – October 16: Course Orientation and Introductory Webinar registration
  • October 16: Course Orientation and Introductory Webinar – Introduction to the Adaptation Design Tool (1 hour)
  • October 17 – November 16: Complete four self-paced lessons and learning exercises (approximately 6 hours)
  • November 6: Webinar 2 – Developing Climate-Smart Design Considerations for Existing Conservation and Management Actions (1.5 hours)
  • November 17: Webinar 3 – Expanding the List of Adaptation Options & Course Conclusion (1 hour)


To Register:
The course will open with an orientation webinar held on October 16 at 10:00 AM HST / 4:00 PM ESTRegister here for the Orientation Webinar which will cover how to enroll in the course. If you are not able to take this mentored course, there is a self-study version available here (Note: you will need to create a user account to access the self-study course). If you have questions, please contact us at

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