Density-dependent coral recruitment displays divergent responses during distinct early life-history stages
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Population growth involves demographic bottlenecks that regulate recruitment success during various early life-history stages. The success of each early life-history stage can vary in response to population density, interacting with intrinsic (e.g. behavioural) and environmental (e.g. competition, predation) factors. Here, we used the common reef-building coral Acropora millepora to investigate how density-dependence influences larval survival and settlement in laboratory experiments that isolated intrinsic effects, and post-settlement survival in a field experiment that examined interactions with environmental factors. Larval survival was exceptionally high (greater than 80%) and density-independent from 2.5 to 12 days following spawning. By contrast, there was a weak positive effect of larval density on settlement, driven by gregarious behaviour at the highest density. When larval supply was saturated, settlement was three times higher in crevices compared with exposed microhabitats, but a negative relationship between settler density and post-settlement survival in crevices and density-independent survival on exposed surfaces resulted in similar recruit densities just one month following settlement. Moreover, a negative relationship was found between turf algae and settler survival in crevices, whereas gregarious settlement improved settler survival on exposed surfaces. Overall, our findings reveal divergent responses by coral larvae and newly settled recruits to density-dependent regulation, mediated by intrinsic and environmental interactions.
Royal Society Open Science
Copyright 2017 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified