NESP TWQ Round 4 - Project 4.4 - The traits of corals that survived recent bleaching events

The past two years have seen unprecedented coral bleaching on the GBR but the consequences on biodiversity and genetic diversity are not yet known. This project will address the following questions:

  1. Has bleaching resulted in a loss of genetic diversity in three coral species?
  2. Do surviving populations contain genetic signatures of adaptation to bleaching temperatures?
  3. What is the prevalence of heat tolerant photo-symbionts within surviving corals and in the environmental pool?
  4. Are heat tolerant Symbiodinium communities and host genetic variants correlated with ambient environmental and recent bleaching conditions?

High throughput genomic sequence variance analysis will identify genes in corals and Symbiodinium types associated with bleaching tolerance. Through correlations with environmental variables we will develop a spatially explicit understanding of the distribution and abundance of stress tolerant coral genes and symbionts ( in hospite and free-living) to identify key coral populations for protection, key reefs for resilience management and potential
breeding stock for use in reef restoration activities.

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