Resilience of a high latitude Red Sea corals to extreme temperature


Our research objective was to expand the very limited knowledgebase pertaining to the ecology of fringing coral reefs in the Gulf of Suez, Egypt. Specifically, determine dominant coral species and investigate why this reef is capable of surviving at such a high-latitude and extreme harsh environment. Data collection included annual reef surveys, randomized quadrat sampling, five permanent video transects and in situ seawater temperature. Of the known Gulf of Suez 35 taxa, only six (Acropora humilis, A. microclados, A. hemprichii, Litophyton arboretum, Stylophora pistillata, Porites columna, and P. plantulata), compose 94% of the reef's coral cover. Coral dominance across species shifted drastically during the study period. However, the six coral dominance remained unchanged, while some decreased others increased. These six coral taxa regularly experience daily changes in seawater temperature and seasonal variations that exceed These extreme temperatures variation and the fact that only six coral taxa dominance remained unchanged, suggest that these corals may have developed a mechanism to cope with extreme seawater temperatures as evidenced by their continued growth and survival over the study period. We speculate that species dominance shift occurred largely as a result of a local oil spill rather than exposure to extreme temperatures. Further scrutiny of these species and the mechanisms by which they are able to thrive is recommended, as they hold the potential to benefit other coral communities as a resilient transplant species and model for understanding coral survivability in extreme environmental conditions.

Share and Cite:

Moustafa, M. , Moustafa, Z. and Moustafa, M. (2013) Resilience of a high latitude Red Sea corals to extreme temperature. Open Journal of Ecology, 3, 242-253. doi: 10.4236/oje.2013.33028.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Loya, Y. (1972) Community structure and species diversity of hermatypic corals at Eilat, Red Sea. Marine Biology, 13, 100-123. doi:10.1007/BF00366561
[2] Mustafa, F. (2000) Status of Coral Reefs in the Middle East, AIMS.
[3] Rinkevich, B. (2005) What do we know about Eilat (Red Sea) reef degradation? A critical examination of the published literature. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 327, 183-200. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2005.06.014
[4] Yassien, M.H., El-Ganainy, A.A. and Hasan, M.H. (2009) Shellfish fishery in the north western part of the Red Sea. World Journal of F
[5] ish and Marine Sciences, 1, 97-104.
[6] Hastenrath, S. and Lamb, P.J. (1979) Climatic atlas of the Indian Ocean, Part 2. The Ocean Heat Budget, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
[7] Moustafa, M.Z. (1983) On water masses of the Red Sea. M.S. Thesis, Physical Oceanography Department, College of William and Mary.
[8] Rowan, R. (2004) Coral bleaching—Thermal adaptation in reef coral symbionts. Nature, 430, 742-742. doi:10.1038/430742a
[9] Baird, A.H., Bhagooli, R., Ralph, P.J. and Takahashi, S. (2009) Coral bleaching: The role of the host. Tree, 24, 16-20. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2008.09.005
[10] Brown, B.E. and Cossins, A.R. (2011) The potential for temperature acclimatization of reef corals in the face of climate change. In: Dubinsky, Z. and Stambler, N., Eds., Coral reefs: An ecosystem in transition. Springer, Dordrecht Heidelberg London New York, 421-433.
[11] Edmunds, P.J. (1994) Evidence that reef-wide patterns of coral bleaching may be the result of the distribution of bleaching susceptible clones. Marine Biology (Berlin), 121, 137-142. doi:10.1007/BF00349482
[12] Glynn, P.W., Mate, J.L., Baker, A.C. and Calderon, M.O. (2001) Coral bleaching and mortality in Panama and Ecuador during the 1997-98 El Nino-Southern Oscillation event: Spatial/temporal patterns and comparisons with the 1982-1983 event. Bulletin of Marine Science, 69, 79-109.
[13] Krishnan, P., Roy, S.D., George, G., Srivastava, R.C., An- and, A., et al. (2011) Elevated sea surface temperature during May 2010 induces mass bleaching of corals in the Andaman. Current Scinece, 100, 111-117.
[14] Baria, M.V.B., de la Cruz, D.W., Villanueva, R.D. and Guest, J.R. (2012) Spawning of three-year-old Acropora millepora corals reared from larvae in northwestern Philippines. The Bulletin of Materials Science, 88, 61-62. doi:10.5343/bms.2011.1075
[15] Lirman, D., Schopmeyer, S., Manzello, D., Gramer, L.J., Precht, W.F., et al. (2011) Cold-water event caused unprecedented mortality to corals of the florida reef tract and reversed previous survivorship patterns. PLoS ONE, 6, e23047. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023047
[16] Van Oppen, M.J.H. and Gates, R.D. (2006) Conservation genetics and the resilience of reef-building corals. Molecular Ecology, 15, 3863-3883. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03026.x
[17] Mumby, P.J., Elliott, I.A., Eakin, C.M., Skirving, W., Paris, C.P., Edwards, H.J., Enriquez, S., Iglesias-Prieto, R., Cherubin, L. and Stevens, J.R. (2011) Reserve design for uncertain responses of coral reefs to climate change. Ecology Letters, 14, 132-140. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01562.x
[18] Donner, S.D. (2011) An evaluation of the effect of recent temperature variability on the prediction of coral bleaching events. Ecological Applications, 21, 1718-1730. doi:10.1890/10-0107.1
[19] Moustafa, Z. D., Hallock, P., Moustafa, M.S. and Moustafa, M.Z. (2008) Survivalship of a red sea fringing coral reef under extreme environmental conditions. Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Lauderdale.
[20] Moustafa, Z.D., Moustafa, M.S. and Moustafa, M.Z. (2008) What is normal? Extreme temperature variability on a high latitude, fringing red sea coral reef. ASLO/AGU Ocean Science Meeting, Orlando.
[21] Page, C., Coleman, G., Ninio, R. and Osborn, K. (2001) Surveys of sessile benthic communities using the video technique. AIMS standard operational procedure. AIMS.
[22] du Toit, S.H.C., Steyn, A.G.W. and Stumpf, R.H. (1986) Graphical exploratory data analysis. Spring-Verlag, New York, 314.
[23] Jacoby, W.B. (1988) Statistical graphics for visualizing multivariate data. Sage University Paper Series on Quantitative Application in the Social Science, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, 102.
[24] Chow, V.T. and Maidment, D.R.M (1988) Applied hydrology. McGraw-Hill, New York.
[25] Stedinger, J.R., Vogel, R.M. and Foufoula-Georgious, E. (1993) Frequency analysis of extreme events in handbook of hydrology, McGraw-Hill.
[26] Kohler, K.E. and Gill, S.M. (2006) Coral point count with excel extensions (CPCe): A visual basic program for the determination of coral and substrate coverage using random point count methodology. Computers and Geosciences, 32, 1259-1269. doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2005.11.009
[27] Myers, R. and Lieske, E. (2004) Coral reef guide red sea. Collins Publishers, London, England.
[28] Conover, W.J. (1999) Practical nonparametric statistics. 3rd Edition, Wiley, New York.
[29] Hoegh-Guldberg, O. and Smith, G.J. (1989) The effect of sudden changes in temperature, light and salinity on the population density and export of zooxanthallae from the reef corals Stylophora pistillata (Esper) and Seriatopora hystrix (Dana). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 129, 279-303. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(89)90109-3
[30] Schiedek, D., Sundelin, B., Readman, J.W.R., MacDonald, R.W. (2007) Interactions between climate change and contaminants. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 54, 1845-1856. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.09.020
[31] Hughes, T.P., Baird, A.H., Bellwood, D.R., Card, M., Connolly, S.R., Folke, C., Grosberg, R., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Jackson, J.B.C., Kleypas, J., Lough, J.M., Marshall, P., Nystrom, M., Palumbi, S.R., Pandolfi, J.M., Rosen, B. and Roughgarden, J (2003) Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science, 301, 929-933. doi:10.1126/science.1085046
[32] Coles, S.L. and Fadlallah, Y.H. (1991) Reef coral survival and mortality at low temperatures in the Arabian Gulf: New species-specific lower temperature limits. Coral Reefs, 9, 231-237. doi:10.1007/BF00290427
[33] Muhando, C.A. (2002) Seawater temperature on shallow reefs off zanzibar town, Tanzania. In: Linden, O., Souter, D., Wilhelmsson, D. and Obura, D., Eds., Coral reef degradation in the Indian Ocean. Status Report 2002. CORDIO, Kalmar, 40-46.
[34] Goreau, T.J. and Hayes, R.L. (1994) Coral bleaching and ocean “hot spots”. Ambio, 23, 176-180.
[35] Winter, A. and Appeldoon, R.S., Bruckner, A., Williams Jr., E.H. and Goenaga, C. (1998) Sea surface temperature and coral reef bleaching off La Parguera, Puerto Rico (northeastern Caribbean Sea). Coral Reefs, 17, 377-382. doi:10.1007/s003380050143
[36] Szmant, A.M. and Gassman, N.J. (1990) The effects of prolonged ‘‘bleaching’’ on the tissue biomass and reproduction of the reef coral Montastrea annularis. Coral Reefs, 8, 217-224. doi:10.1007/BF00265014
[37] Mendes, J.M. and, Woodley, J.D. (2002) Effect of the 1995-1996 bleaching event on polyp tissue depth, growth, reproduction and skeletal band formation in Montastraea annularis. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 235, 93-102. doi:10.3354/meps235093
[38] Jokiel, P.L. and Coles, S.L. (1990) Response of Hawaiian and other Indo-Pacific reef corals to elevated temperature. Coral Reefs, 8, 155-162. doi:10.1007/BF00265006
[39] Ingram, J. and Bartels, D. (1996) The molecular basis of dehydration tolerance in plants. Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology, 47, 377-403. doi:10.1146/annurev.arplant.47.1.377
[40] Huey, R.B. and Kingsolver, J.G. (1993) Evolution of resistance to high-temperatures in ectotherms. The American Naturalist, 142, S21-S46. doi:10.1086/285521
[41] Somero, G.N. (2002) Thermal physiology and vertical zonation of intertidal animals: Optima, limits, and costs of living. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 42, 780-789. doi:10.1093/icb/42.4.780
[42] Hochachka, P.W. and Somero, G.N. (2002) Biochemical adaptation: Mechanism and process in physiological evolution. Oxford University Press, New York.
[43] Nevo, E. (2001) Evolution of genome-phenome diversity under environmental stress. Proceedings of National Academy of Science of the USA, 98, 6233-6240. doi:10.1073/pnas.101109298
[44] Parsons, P.A. (2005) Environments and evolution: Interactions between stress, resource inadequacy and energetic efficiency. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 80, 589-610. doi:10.1017/S1464793105006822
[45] Barshis, D.J., Lander, J.T., Oliver, T.A., Seneca, F.O., Taylor-Knowles, N. and Palumbi, S.R. (2012) Genomic basis for coral resilience to climate change.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.