Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 8, pp 1579–1586 | Cite as

Geographically conserved rates of background mortality among common reef-building corals in Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives, versus northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia

  • Chiara PisapiaEmail author
  • Michael Sweet
  • Hugh Sweatman
  • Morgan Stuart Pratchett
Original Paper


Even in the absence of major disturbances (e.g., cyclones and bleaching), corals are consistently subject to high levels of background mortality, which undermines individual fitness and resilience of coral colonies. Most studies of coral mortality however only focus on catastrophic mortality associated with major acute disturbance events, neglecting to consider background levels of chronic mortality that have a significant influence on population structure and turnover. If, for example, there are geographic differences in the prevalence of injuries and rates of background mortality, coral communities may vary in their susceptibility to acute large-scale disturbances and environmental change. This study quantified the prevalence and severity of partial mortality for four dominant and widespread coral taxa (massive Porites, encrusting Montipora, Acropora hyacinthus, and branching Pocillopora) at Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives, and on the northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. The prevalence and severity of sublethal injuries varied greatly among taxa, but was generally similar between locations; on the Great Barrier Reef, 99.4 % Porites colonies, 66 % of A. hyacinthus, and 64 % of Pocillopora had conspicuous injuries, compared to 92.4 % of Porites, 47.5 % of A. hyacinthus, and 44 % of Pocillopora colonies in Lhaviyani Atoll. These results suggest that background rates of mortality and injury, and associated resilience of coral populations and communities to large-scale disturbances, are conserved at large geographic scales, though adjacent colonies can have markedly different injury regimes, likely to lead to strong intraspecific variation in colony fitness and resilience.


Great Barrier Reef Tissue Loss Coral Coloni Reef Crest Coral Mortality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was funded by the ARC Centre of Excellence of Coral Reef Studies and AIMS@JCU. The authors are indebted to M. Trapon, K. Anderson, J. Casey, D. Burn, and B. Taylor for assistance in the field and to the staff at Lizard Island Research Station, and Korallionlab for field and logistical support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chiara Pisapia
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael Sweet
    • 3
  • Hugh Sweatman
    • 4
  • Morgan Stuart Pratchett
    • 1
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.AIMS@JCU, Australian Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Molecular Health and Disease Laboratory, Department of Conservation, Biology and EcosystemsUniversity of DerbyDerbyUK
  4. 4.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia

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