QUANTIFICATION OF MICROSCOPIC ZOOXANTHELLAE ALGAE EXPULSION AFTER INCREASED TEMPERATURE BY CANDY CANE CORAL, Caulastrea furcata Public Deposited
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Since the early 1980s, intense coral bleaching events have yielded increasingly expansive coral reef ecosystems devoid of recovery. Commonly distinguished as the “rainforest of the sea,” the biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems is unparalleled by any other marine ecosystem. Recent global changes—primarily increased sea surface temperature (SST)—have threatened the continued prosperity of corals, thereby threatening the innumerable lives of organisms depending on reefs. Efforts to protect coral reefs have been initiated, yet questions still remain: exactly how much of the mutualistic dinoflagellate algae dwelling within coral tissue are expelled from the first encounter of environmental stress? This study focuses on imposing stress-inducing temperature change to candy cane corals, Caulastrea furcata, from an ideal water temperature of 27ºC to elevated levels of 29 ºC and 30 ºC, in the span of two days. After the corals experienced these higher temperatures, they were immediately reverted to ideal conditions. The corals were monitored over the course of several weeks to determine the degree to which recovery was made. The change in zooxanthellae density was determined from multiple extraction periods and coral color was categorized via the Siebeck et al. Color Reference Card. Results indicated that the corals experiencing 29 ºC had better recovery than 30 ºC, and that more than half of the algae were expelled in immediate response to this thermal stress.
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