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Open Access Content loaded within last 14 days The impacts of competitive interactions on coral colonies after transplantation: a multispecies experiment from the Florida Keys, US

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Reef restoration programs in Florida, US, focused initially on Acropora, but there is now a need to include other species that have also experienced declines. An outplanting experiment using Acropora cervicornis, Montastraea cavernosa, and Orbicella faveolata was conducted to compare performance among species and evaluate the impacts of contact interactions with macroalgae and the zoanthid Palythoa caribaeorum. Montastraea cavernosa and O. faveolata showed high survivorship (78% and 92%, respectively) over 18 mo. However, surviving colonies had limited growth and lost tissue due to factors like predation and disease. In contrast, A. cervicornis showed exponential growth. Colonies in contact with macroalgae showed the lowest survivorship. Removing macroalgae provided no long-term benefits in growth and a slight improvement in colony survivorship. Acropora cervicornis in contact with Palythoa grew 45% less than controls. Our study showed that: (1) coral taxa with massive morphologies (40–130 cm2) can be transplanted with low colony mortality but that their slow growth is not enough to balance partial tissue mortality caused by multiple chronic stressors; (2) removal of macroalgae at the time of outplanting improves colony survivorship; (3) periodic removal of macroalgae does not enhance growth; and (4) contact with Palythoa should be avoided. The impacts of contact competition were variable among species with different colony morphologies, with A. cervicornis showing the highest susceptibility to competition from algae and Palythoa. While restoration can rapidly increase coral abundance, long-term success will require a multifaceted approach to reduce the impacts of chronic reef stressors on wild and outplanted corals alike.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: The Nature Conservancy, 127 Industrial Road, Suite D, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043 2: Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2796 Overseas Hwy, suite 119, Marathon Florida 33050 3: Mote Marine Laboratory, International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration, 24244 Overseas Hwy, Summerland Key, Florida 33042 4: Columbia University, 116th St & Broadway, New York, New York 10027 5: Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 8 th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701 6: Cooperative Institute for Marine & Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, Florida 33149 7: University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, Florida 33149;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: October 1, 2020

This article was made available online on March 5, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "The impacts of competitive interactions on coral colonies after transplantation: A multispecies experiment from the Florida Keys, US".

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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