Simulation and observations of annual density banding in skeletons of Montastraea (Cnidaria: Scleractinia) growing under thermal stress associated with ocean warming

Wórum, Ferenc P., Juan P. Carricart-Ganivet, Larry Benson, Duncan Golicher

Limnol. Oceanogr., 52(5), 2007, 2317-2323 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2007.52.5.2317

ABSTRACT: We present a model of annual density banding in skeletons of Montastraea coral species growing under thermal stress associated with an ocean-warming scenario. The model predicts that at sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) <29°C, high-density bands (HDBs) are formed during the warmest months of the year. As temperature rises and oscillates around the optimal calcification temperature, an annual doublet in the HDB (dHDB) occurs that consists of two narrow HDBs. The presence of such dHDBs in skeletons of Montastraea species is a clear indication of thermal stress. When all monthly SSTs exceed the optimal calcification temperature, HDBs form during the coldest, not the warmest, months of the year. In addition, a decline in mean-annual calcification rate also occurs during this period of elevated SST. A comparison of our model results with annual density patterns observed in skeletons of M. faveolata and M. franksi, collected from several localities in the Mexican Caribbean, indicates that elevated SSTs are already resulting in the presence of dHDBs as a first sign of thermal stress, which occurs even without coral bleaching.

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