Host and Symbionts in Pocillopora damicornis Larvae Display Different Transcriptomic Responses to Ocean Acidification and Warming

Abstract: As global ocean change progresses, reef-building corals and their early life history stages will rely on physiological plasticity to tolerate new environmental conditions. Larvae from brooding coral species contain algal symbionts upon release, which assist with the energy requirements of dispersal and metamorphosis. Global ocean change threatens the success of larval dispersal and settlement by challenging the performance of the larvae and of the symbiosis. In this study, larvae of the reef-building coral Pocillopora damicornis were exposed to elevated pCO2 and temperature to examine the performance of the coral and its symbionts in situ and better understand the mechanisms of physiological plasticity and stress tolerance in response to multiple stressors. We generated a de novo holobiont transcriptome containing coral host and algal symbiont transcripts and bioinformatically filtered the assembly into host and symbiont components for downstream analyses. Seventeen coral genes were differentially expressed in response to the combined effects of pCO2 and temperature. In the symbiont, 89 genes were differentially expressed in response to pCO2. Our results indicate that many of the whole-organism (holobiont) responses previously observed for P. damicornis larvae in scenarios of ocean acidification and warming may reflect the physiological capacity of larvae to cope with the environmental changes without expressing additional protective mechanisms. At the holobiont level, the results suggest that the responses of symbionts to future ocean conditions could play a large role in shaping success of coral larval stages.

Authors: E. B. Rivest, M. W. Kelly, M. B. DeBiasse, G. E. Hofmann


Year: 2018

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Frontiers in Marine Science 5:

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Loss of coral reef growth capacity to track future increases in sea level

Abstract: Sea-level rise (SLR) is predicted to elevate water depths above coral reefs and to increase coastal wave exposure as ecological degradation limits vertical reef growth, but projections lack data on interactions between local rates of reef growth and sea level rise. Here we calculate the vertical growth potential of more than 200 tropical western Atlantic and Indian Ocean reefs, and compare these against recent and projected rates of SLR under different Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios. Although many reefs retain accretion rates close to recent SLR trends, few will have the capacity to track SLR projections under RCP4.5 scenarios without sustained ecological recovery, and under RCP8.5 scenarios most reefs are predicted to experience mean water depth increases of more than 0.5 m by 2100. Coral cover strongly predicts reef capacity to track SLR, but threshold cover levels that will be necessary to prevent submergence are well above those observed on most reefs. Urgent action is thus needed to mitigate climate, sea-level and future ecological changes in order to limit the magnitude of future reef submergence.

Authors: C. T. Perry, L. Alvarez-Filip, N. A. Graham, P. J. Mumby, S. K. Wilson, P. S. Kench, D. P. Manzello, K. M. Morgan, A. B. A. Slangen, D. P. Thomson, F. Januchowski-Hartley, S. G. Smithers, R. S. Steneck, R. Carlton, E. N. Edinger, I. C. Enochs, N. Estrada-Saldivar, M. D. E. Haywood, G. Kolodziej, G. N. Murphy, E. Perez-Cervantes, A. Suchley, L. Valentino, R. Boenish, M. Wilson, C. Macdonald

Year: 2018
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Nature 558:

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Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Mass Bleaching of Corals in the Anthropocene

Abstract: Tropical reef systems are transitioning to a new era in which the interval between recurrent bouts of coral bleaching is too short for a full recovery of mature assemblages. We analyzed bleaching records at 100 globally distributed reef locations from 1980 to 2016. The median return time between pairs of severe bleaching events has diminished steadily since 1980 and is now only 6 years. As global warming has progressed, tropical sea surface temperatures are warmer now during current La Niña conditions than they were during El Niño events three decades ago. Consequently, as we transition to the Anthropocene, coral bleaching is occurring more frequently in all El Niño–Southern Oscillation phases, increasing the likelihood of annual bleaching in the coming decades.

Authors: Hughes, T. P. , K. D. Anderson, S. R. Connolly, S. F. Heron, J. T. Kerry, J. M. Lough, A. H. Baird, J. K. Baum, M. L. Berumen, T. C., Bridge, D. C. Claar, C. M. Eakin, J. P. Gilmour, N. A. J. Graham, H. Harrison, J. A. Hobbs, A. S. Hoey, M. Hoogenboom, R. J. Lowe, M. T. McCulloch, J. M. Pandolfi, M. Pratchett, V. Schoepf, G. Torda, S. K. Wilson

Year: 2018
View the article here

Science 359:

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Year in Review – 2017

Reflecting on the past year, there has never been a more critical time for effective coral reef management. In June of 2017, the world’s longest and most widespread bleaching event on record ended, with many reefs experiencing significant mortality. To address these – and other – challenges, the Reef Resilience Network continues to empower a global network of marine managers and scientists to improve coral reef management by sharing and implementing cutting-edge resilience science, inspiring greater collaboration, and working with global and regional reef initiatives to roll out guidance and best practices. Based on feedback from our managers, we have led in-person and online trainings, and have added new webinars, case studies, journal summaries, guidebooks, and modules on key topics to our website,, which had over 150,000 visitors this year alone!

We are inspired by the thousands of reef managers, practitioners, and scientists in our Network and beyond, who spend their days working to reduce the threats facing reefs and supporting the necessary policies and programs to help our reefs to recover and thrive. We thank you and look forward and ahead to 2018 – the International Year of the Reef – and are grateful for the renewed attention to one of our world’s most precious resources, our coral reefs. See how we, as a Network, have improved reef management around the world.

RR Year in Review 2017_final

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Adaptation Design Tool Online Course Announcement

Course banner

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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Adaptation Design Tool for Natural Resource Management – Minnesota, 2017


The Reef Resilience Network partnered with NOAA and EPA to host a 1.5 hour training on Adaptation Design Tool for Natural Resource Management at the National Adaptation Forum on May 11, 2017. The training session provided an interactive introduction to the Adaptation Design Tool that walks practitioners through steps for adjusting the design of their management activities to be more climate-smart. Participants got a brief ‘how to’ on the tool, along with an illustrative case study presentation, and hands-on work to apply adaptation design to example management activities for Puerto Rican coral reefs. A more extensive version of the Adaptation Design Tool will be launched this summer in the form of an online course and instructor-led training as part of the Reef Resilience Toolkit.
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