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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2010, Article ID 415167, 8 pages
Research Article

Experimental Bleaching of a Reef-Building Coral Using a Simplified Recirculating Laboratory Exposure System

Gulf Ecology Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1 Sabine Island Drive, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561, USA

Received 6 February 2010; Revised 4 June 2010; Accepted 31 August 2010

Academic Editor: Wen-Xiong Wang

Copyright © 2010 Mace G. Barron et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Determining stressor-response relationships in reef building corals continues to be a critical research need due to global declines in coral reef ecosystems and projected declines for the future. A simplified recirculating coral exposure system was coupled to a solar simulator to allow laboratory testing of a diversity of species and morphologies of reef building corals under ecologically relevant conditions of temperature and solar radiation. Combinations of lamps and attenuating filters allowed for assignment of solar radiation treatments in experimental bleaching studies. Three bleaching experiments were performed using the reef building coral, Pocillopora damicornis, to assess the reproducibility of system performance and coral responses under control and stress conditions. Experiments showed consistent temperature- and solar radiation dependent-changes in pigment, numbers of symbiotic algae, photosystem II quantum yield, and tissue loss during exposure and recovery. The laboratory exposure system is recommended for use in experimental bleaching studies with reef building corals.