Assessing climate change impacts on Eilat’s coral reef of tomorrow


Principal Investigators: Jeremie Vidal-Dupiol, Eve Toulza, Erwan Harscouet, Mitta Guillaume
International Collaborators Baruch Rinkevich et Dor Shefy (Haifa university)
The continuous degradation of coral reef ecosystems and the disheartening forecasts of a gloomy future for all reefs, including the reef at Eilat, call for novel management approaches. This study takes the first steps in developing a scientific tool-box for creating sustainable biodiversity at the ‘reefs of tomorrow’, by focusing on coral recruitment (the evolutionary machinery for reef biodiversity) at the withinspecies biodiversity level, using a model coral species (Stylophora pistillata) from the gulf of Eilat. This will be done through two themes. The first theme is based on the notion that the sustainment of high levels of genetic diversity within populations is an important objective, since self-seeded populations (which are less biodiverse) may be more vulnerable to climate change. Evaluating the genetic heterogeneity levels in the population of contemporary adult Stylophora colonies compared to recruited spats (the future Stylophora population) will provide the long-term perspective assessment of possible population genetics changes. The second theme considers natural chimerism. Coral recruitment is associated with chimeric formation, the fusion between young conspecifics. While commonly documented, very few studies included manipulative experiments and comparisons between chimeric and non-chimeric individuals, let alone addressed the ecological and evolutionary consequences of coral chimerism while also taking into account the cumulative responses of the chimeric partners to environmental insults and/or global changes, such as water temperature vicissitudes. We have set two specific aims for this proposed research: (I) Evaluate the population genetic patterns of Stylophora pistillata recruits compared to local established populations (the Israeli PI); (II) Evaluate gene expression disparities under thermal insult in Stylophora pistillata chimeric and genetically homogeneous entities (the French PI)