Coral reefs have been detrimentally impacted causing health issues due to elevated ocean temperatures as a result of increased greenhouse gases. Extreme temperatures have also exacerbated coral diseases in tropical reef environments. Numerous studies have outlined the impacts of thermal stress and disease on coral organisms, as well as understanding the influence of site-based characteristics on coral physiology. However, few have discussed the interaction of all three. Laboratory out-planting restoration projects have been of importance throughout impacted areas such as the Caribbean and southern Florida in order to increase coral cover in these areas. This study analyzes photosynthetic efficiency of Porites astreoides
from the lower Florida Keys after a two-year reciprocal transplant study at inshore (Birthday reef) and offshore (Acer24 reef) sites to understand acclimation capacity of this species. Laboratory experiments subjected these colonies to one of three treatments: control conditions, increases in temperature, and increases in temperature plus exposure to an immune stimulant (lipopolysaccharide (LPS)) to determine their influence on photosynthetic efficiency and how stress events impact these measurements. In addition, this study is a continuation of previous studies from this group. Here, we aim to understand if these results are static or if an acclimation capacity could be found. Overall, we observed site-specific influences from the Acer24 reef site, which had significant decreases in photosynthetic efficiencies in 32 °C treatments compared to Birthday reef colonies. We suggest that high irradiance and lack of an annual recovery period from the Acer24 site exposes these colonies to significant photoinhibition. In addition, we observed significant increases in photosynthetic efficiencies from LPS exposure. We suggest host-derived antioxidants can mitigate the negative impacts of increased thermal stress. Further research is required to understand the full complexity of host immunity and symbiont photosynthetic interactions.
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