Important new information on coral spawning can now be found all in one place, reports a recent study published in Nature’s Scientific Data. With data collected over the past forty-two years, the database is a goldmine for researchers tracking long-term trends of coral and coral reproduction.
The Coral Spawning Database (CSD) was developed by leading scientists from Newcastle University, UK, and James Cook University, Australia. The authors say that CSD was an ambitious international collaboration involving 90 authors from 60 institutions in 20 countries.
The CSD provides a point of reference from which we can monitor and measure future changes in coral spawning, changes which have been observed already as a result of climate change. The database keeps track of information such as temperature, daylight patterns, the lunar cycle, and other potential influences on spawning times. “The goal of the CSD,” write the authors, “is to provide open access to coral spawning data to accelerate our understanding of coral reproductive biology and to provide a baseline against which to evaluate any future changes in reproductive phenology.”
The team says information on spawning can shed light on other parts of marine ecology. Dr James Guest, from the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, explains: "Coral spawning times can be used to address many significant and fundamental questions in coral reef ecology. Knowing when corals spawn can assist coastal management - for example, if dredging operations cease during mass spawning events. It also has enormous potential for scientific outreach, education, and tourism if spawning events can be witnessed in person or remotely."
Made up of 6178 observations of the time or day of spawning for over 300 scleractinian species in 61 genera from 101 sites in the Indo-Pacific, the CSD is open for new additions of data and the researchers hope it will grow in time.
"Our vision is to help advance many aspects of coral reef science and conservation at a time of unprecedented environmental and societal change. It will accelerate our understanding of coral reproductive biology and provide a baseline against which to evaluate any future changes in the time of spawning," says Professor Andrew Baird from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reefs Studies at James Cook University.