A new study shows that coral colonies that have suffered tissue damage are very slow to fully recover their reproductive abilities.
“The really interesting finding was that four years later, these colonies were still displaying an effect,” said Dr. Howard Lasker, a geology professor at UB who led the study. He noted that the slow recovery was a surprise. “They don’t necessarily look damaged anymore, but it takes some time to get back to where they were in terms of reproduction.”
This research has broader repercussions,” Lasker continued. “When you start talking about damage to reefs from events like hurricanes, you might say that the coral survived, that it lost some tissue, but it’s still reproducing. That’s true, but we now know the corals are not quite as healthy as we thought.”
Lasker explained that the research supports the idea that damaged corals have lower fecundity because they divert most of their energy and resources away from reproduction and towards growth and injury repair. The study notes that “the mechanism controlling resource allocation is unknown.”
Additional research will be needed to determine any long-term impacts the changes in fecundity will have on population growth.
To learn more:
- Read the full article from UB: Injured Coral? Expect Less Sex
- Find the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, here: Effects of tissue loss, age and size on fecundity in the octocoral Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae
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