[Coral-List] fire coral is a survivor in the Caribbean

Steve Gittings - NOAA Federal steve.gittings at noaa.gov
Tue Jul 19 14:50:01 UTC 2022

To offer another perspective, when I was working at the Flower Garden
Banks, 100 miles off Texas and Louisiana, a bleaching event happened in
1991 in which *Millepora alcicornis* was the first species to bleach and
was the most extreme (Cook et al. reported the same thing in Bermuda in
1990 and Goreau had reported *M. complanata* as the first to bleach in a
1964 paper).  Some of the 20+ species of scleractinians at the Flower
Gardens exhibited paling or bleaching as well, but aside from *Montastrea
cavernosa*, none were as early or severe as fire corals.  Mortality for all
species was low, thanks in part to the depth of the reefs (crest is at 18m)
and the unlikelihood of prolonged exposure or stagnation in their open
ocean setting.

Separately, Stetson Bank, about 30 miles to the NW of the Flower Garden
Banks, coral cover was dominated by *M. alcicornis* (~30% cover on rock
outcrops) until a Caribbean-wide bleaching event resulted in a reduction to
below 8% (it is currently around 7%).  Stetson's bank crest is nearly 18 m
and water column temperatures tend to be lower than the Flower Gardens, so
we were surprised to see the impact.  The few scleractinians on that bank
(it does not have coral reefs) did not appear to suffer from that
event, and their populations have remained fairly stable.

Hagman, D.K. and S.R. Gittings. 1992. Coral bleaching on high latitude
reefs at the Flower Garden Banks, NW Gulf of Mexico. Proc. 7th Int. Coral
Reef Symp. 1:38-43.

DeBose, J. L., Nuttall, M. F., Hickerson, E. L., & Schmahl, G. P. (2012). A
high-latitude coral community with an uncertain future: Stetson Bank,
northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Coral Reefs, 32, 255–267.

On Tue, Jul 19, 2022 at 9:58 AM Katie Cramer via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

> Hello Coral List,
> Doug, thank you for sharing Pete Edmund's very interesting article about
> the resilience of fire coral (Millepora spp.) in the US Virgin Islands over
> the past decades.
> Our recently-conducted study (The transformation of Caribbean coral
> communities since humans",
> https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.7808) shows that
> this
> is a Caribbean-wide trend. We tracked changes in the prevalence of coral
> taxa and life history groups across the Caribbean from the pre-human period
> to 2011, and found that Millepora prevalence began increasing region-wide
> in the 1980s. Millepora has many life history traits in common with
> Acropora, but is more tolerant of sedimentation and has not (yet) been hit
> by disease. It seems that these fire corals are now the dominant
> competitive corals on many shallow reef zones in the Caribbean following
> the loss of Acropora.
>  -------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2022 08:19:08 -0700
> From: Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>
> To: coral list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Subject: [Coral-List] fire coral is a survivor in the Caribbean
> Message-ID:
>         <
> CAOEmEkHC30OJ9eSO7c_O8974ECJq1FNs9fxBBDZ7a67jb4gq6A at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"
> How does Caribbean fire coral thrive as others vanish?
> https://www.science.org/content/article/how-does-caribbean-fire-coral
> -thrive-others-vanish
> <https://www.science.org/content/article/how-does-caribbean-fire-coral-thrive-others-vanish>
> open-access
> Persistence of a sessile benthic organism promoted by a morphological
> strategy combining sheets and trees
> https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2022.0952
> open-access
> Cheers, Doug
> --
> *___________________________________________*
> Katie Cramer
> *Associate Research Professor *
> Arizona State University | Center for Biodiversity Outcomes
> *Ocean Science Fellow*
> Conservation International | Center for Oceans & Moore Center for Science
> https://katielcramer.com/
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

Dr. Steve Gittings, Science Coordinator
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