Knowledge of multi-stressor interactions and the potential for tradeoffs among tolerance traits is essential for developing intervention strategies for the conservation and restoration of reef ecosystems in a changing climate. Thermal extremes and acidification are two major co-occurring stresses predicted to limit the recovery of vital Caribbean reef-building corals. Here, we conducted an aquarium-based experiment to quantify the effects of increased water temperatures and pCO2 individually and in concert on 12 genotypes of the endangered branching coral Acropora cervicornis, currently being reared and outplanted for large-scale coral restoration. Quantification of 12 host, symbiont and holobiont traits throughout the two-month-long experiment showed several synergistic negative effects, where the combined stress treatment often caused a greater reduction in physiological function than the individual stressors alone. However, we found significant genetic variation for most traits and positive trait correlations among treatments indicating an apparent lack of tradeoffs, suggesting that adaptive evolution will not be constrained. Our results suggest that it may be possible to incorporate climate-resistant coral genotypes into restoration and selective breeding programmes, potentially accelerating adaptation.
In order to allow full comparability with other ocean acidification data sets, the R package seacarb (Gattuso et al, 2021) was used to compute a complete and consistent set of carbonate system variables, as described by Nisumaa et al. (2010). In this dataset the original values were archived in addition with the recalculated parameters (see related PI). The date of carbonate chemistry calculation by seacarb is 2022-04-19.