Spectral reflectance of palauan reef-building coral with different symbionts in response to elevated temperature

Brandon J. Russell, Heidi M. Dierssen, Todd C. LaJeunesse, Kenneth D. Hoadley, Mark E. Warner, Dustin W. Kemp, Timothy G. Bateman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Spectral reflectance patterns of corals are driven largely by the pigments of photosynthetic symbionts within the host cnidarian. The warm inshore bays and cooler offshore reefs of Palau share a variety of coral species with differing endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (genus: Symbiodinium), with the thermally tolerant Symbiodinium trenchii (S. trenchii) (= type D1a or D1-4) predominating under the elevated temperature regimes inshore, and primarily Clade C types in the cooler reefs offshore. Spectral reflectance of two species of stony coral, Cyphastrea serailia (C. serailia) and Pachyseris rugosa (P. rugosa), from both inshore and offshore locations shared multiple features both between sites and to similar global data from other studies. No clear reflectance features were evident which might serve as markers of thermally tolerant S. trenchii symbionts compared to the same species of coral with different symbionts. Reflectance from C. serailia colonies from inshore had a fluorescence peak at approximately 500 nm which was absent from offshore animals. Integrated reflectance across visible wavelengths had an inverse correlation to symbiont cell density and could be used as a relative indicator of the symbiont abundance for each type of coral. As hypothesized, coral colonies from offshore with Clade C symbionts showed a greater response to experimental heating, manifested as decreased symbiont density and increased reflectance or "bleaching" than their inshore counterparts with S. trenchii. Although no unique spectral features were found to distinguish species of symbiont, spectral differences related to the abundance of symbionts could prove useful in field and remote sensing studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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