Reproduction and recruitment of scleractinian corals in a high-latitude coral community, Amakusa, southwestern Japan

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Reproduction and recruitment in high-latitude coral populations in Japan have been little studied. A comprehensive study of the reproduction and early life history was conducted on nine common scleractinian coral species in Amakusa, southwestern Japan (32°N) from 2001 to 2003 including; (1) fecundity (the proportion of colonies with mature eggs), (2) timing and synchrony of spawning, (3) initial larval settlement pattern, (4) recruitment, (5) post-settlement mortality. The fecundity was high (76.7–100%) in six of seven species examined in 2002 and 2003. Annual spawning of the seven species occurred from mid July to August in 2001–2003, when seawater temperature was at the annual maximum. Spawning was highly synchronised among conspecific colonies and species in 2002 and 2003, with five species spawning five to nine nights after the full moon and another two spawning around the new moon. Temporal patterns of larval settlement of three spawning species during the first 10 days after spawning were similar to those of other spawning species from low latitudes. The number of scleractinian recruits on settlement plates, deployed from July to October (the major recruitment period at the study site), was low (2 recruits/m2) for the three consecutive years. Post-settlement mortality of 1–1.5 month old spat of five species ranged between 88 and 100% over 3–10 months in the field, similar to the values reported for both high and low latitude species (>94–99%). Among the key stages examined, the low recruitment rate may be the most important step in limiting successful reproduction and recruitment of these high-latitude scleractinian populations. The low recruitment rate may be attributable to (1) the reduced influx of larval supply from other coral populations, which are smaller and more isolated at high-latitudes and (2) the longer precompetent larval phase of broadcast-spawning corals which results in an increased chance of larvae being dispersed away from parent populations.

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