Predicting coral adaptation to global warming in the Indo-West-Pacific

REEF e-talks | Online seminar series by Reef Systems at ZMT



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Professor Mikhail Matz | Matz Lab | Department of Integrative Biology, The University of Texas at Austin

Talk: Predicting coral adaptation to global warming in the Indo-West-Pacific

Date and time: May 15th 2020, 4:00 pm (CEST)



The potential of reef-building corals to adapt to increasing sea-surface temperatures is often debated but has rarely been comprehensively modeled on a region-wide scale. We used individual-based simulations to model adaptation to warming in a coral metapopulation comprising 680 reefs and representing the whole of the Central Indo-West Pacific. Encouragingly, some reefs—most notably Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, New Caledonia and the southern half of the Great Barrier Reef—exhibited high capacity for adaptation and, in our model, maintained coral cover even under a rapid “business-as-usual” warming scenario throughout the modeled period (200 years). Higher resilience of these reefs was observed under all tested parameter settings except the models prohibiting selection and/or migration during warming. At the same time, the majority of reefs in the region tended to collapse within the first 100 years of warming. The adaptive potential (odds of maintaining high coral cover) of a given reef could be predicted based on two metrics: the reef's present-day temperature, and the proportion of recruits immigrating from warmer locations. The latter metric explains the most variation in adaptive potential, and significantly correlates with actual coral cover changes observed throughout the region between the 1970s and the early 2000s. These findings will help prioritize coral conservation efforts and plan assisted gene flow interventions to boost the adaptive potential of specific coral populations.