HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Nicole D. Fogarty, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Justin Campbell, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joana Figueiredo, Ph.D.


Ocean warming and acidification pose major threats to coral reef organisms. It is unknown how the early life history stages of Atlantic corals cope with the combined effects of these two global environmental stressors. Here, I investigate how these stressors influence the fertilization success, larval survivorship, and settlement of the threatened Atlantic coral, Orbicella faveolata. Gametes from O. faveolata were subjected to a factorial combination of present and future scenarios of oceanic temperatures (28.5° C and 30° C) and pH (8.2 and 8.0) predicted to occur by 2050. Results indicate that treatment type did not significantly affect fertilization success. Elevated temperature caused complete larval mortality and inhibited the settlement of O. faveolata. Interestingly, these negative effects of high temperature were partially mitigated when combined with ocean acidification. Overall, both the larval survivorship and settlement in the combined treatment was reduced to approximately half when compared to ambient treatment. Although ocean acidification may partially mitigate the negative effects of ocean warming during the larval stage, the overall reduced survival and settlement of larvae under future oceanic conditions, coupled to reduced calcification in adults, portends devastating effects on the health of this threatened species.