A cross-ocean comparison of responses to settlement cues in reef-building corals.
ABSTRACT: Caribbean coral reefs have deteriorated substantially over the past 30 years, which is broadly attributable to the effects of global climate change. In the same time, Indo-Pacific reefs maintain higher coral cover and typically recover rapidly after disturbances. This difference in reef resilience is largely due to much higher coral recruitment rates in the Pacific. We hypothesized that the lack of Caribbean recruitment might be explained by diminishing quality of settlement cues and/or impaired sensitivity of Caribbean coral larvae to those cues, relative to the Pacific. To evaluate this hypothesis, we assembled a collection of bulk samples of reef encrusting communities, mostly consisting of crustose coralline algae (CCA), from various reefs around the world and tested them as settlement cues for several coral species originating from different ocean provinces. Cue samples were meta-barcoded to evaluate their taxonomic diversity. We observed no systematic differences either in cue potency or in strength of larval responses depending on the ocean province, and no preference of coral larvae towards cues from the same ocean. Instead, we detected significant differences in cue preferences among coral species, even for corals originating from the same reef. We conclude that the region-wide disruption of the settlement process is unlikely to be the major cause of Caribbean reef loss. However, due to their high sensitivity to the effects of climate change, shifts in the composition of CCA-associated communities, combined with pronounced differences in cue preferences among coral species, could substantially influence future coral community structure.
Project description:Understanding the relationship between coral reef condition and recruitment potential is vital for the development of effective management strategies that maintain coral cover and biodiversity. Coral larvae (planulae) have been shown to use certain sensory cues to orient towards settlement habitats (e.g. the odour of live crustose coralline algae - CCA). However, the influence of auditory cues on coral recruitment, and any effect of anthropogenic noise on this process, remain largely unknown. Here, we determined the effect of protected reef (MPA), exploited reef (non-MPA) soundscapes, and a source of anthropogenic noise (boat) on the habitat preference for live CCA over dead CCA in the planula of two common Indo-Pacific coral species (Pocillopora damicornis and Acropora cytherea). Soundscapes from protected reefs significantly increased the phonotaxis of planulae of both species towards live CCA, especially when compared to boat noise. Boat noise playback prevented this preferential selection of live CCA as a settlement substrate. These results suggest that sources of anthropogenic noise such as motor boat can disrupt the settlement behaviours of coral planulae. Acoustic cues should be accounted for when developing management strategies aimed at maximizing larval recruitment to coral reefs.
Project description:Understanding the degree of connectivity between coastal and island landscapes and nearby coral reefs is vital to the integrated management of terrestrial and marine environments in the tropics. Coral reef fish are capable of navigating appropriate settlement habitats following their pelagic larval phase, but the mechanisms by which they do this are unclear. The importance of olfactory cues in settlement site selection has been demonstrated, and there is increasing evidence that chemical cues from terrestrial sources may be important for some species. Here, we test the olfactory preferences of eight island-associated coral reef fish recruits and one generalist species to discern the capacity for terrestrial cue recognition that may aid in settlement site selection. A series of pairwise choice experiments were used to evaluate the potential role that terrestrial, water-borne olfactory cues play in island-reef recognition. Olfactory stimuli tested included near-shore water, terrestrial rainforest leaf litter, and olfactory cues collected from different reef types (reefs surrounding vegetated islands, and reefs with no islands present). All eight island-associated species demonstrated high levels of olfactory discrimination and responded positively toward olfactory cues indicating the presence of a vegetated island. We hypothesize that although these fish use a suite of cues for settlement site recognition, one mechanism in locating their island/reef habitat is through the olfactory cues produced by vegetated islands. This research highlights the role terrestrial olfactory cues play in large-scale settlement site selection and suggests a high degree of ecosystem connectivity.
Project description:Human-driven threats to coastal marine communities could potentially affect chemically mediated behaviours that have evolved to facilitate crucial ecological processes. Chemical cues and their importance remain inadequately understood in marine systems, but cues from coastal vegetation can provide sensory information guiding aquatic animals to key resources or habitats. In the tropics, mangroves are a ubiquitous component of healthy coastal ecosystems, associated with a range of habitats from river mouths to coral reefs. Because mangrove leaf litter is a predictable cue to coastal habitats, chemical information from mangrove leaves could provide a source of settlement cues for coastal fishes, drawing larvae towards shallow benthic habitats or inducing settlement. In choice assays, juvenile fishes from the Caribbean (Belize) and Indo-Pacific (Fiji) were attracted to cues from mangroves leaves and were more attracted to cues from mangroves distant from human settlement. In the field, experimental reefs supplemented with mangrove leaves grown away from humans attracted more fish recruits from a greater diversity of species than reefs supplemented with leaves grown near humans. Together, this suggests that human use of coastal areas alters natural chemical cues, negatively affecting the behavioural responses of larval fishes and potentially suppressing recruitment. Overall, our findings highlight the critical links that exist between marine and terrestrial habitats, and the importance of considering these in the broader conservation and management of coastal ecosystems.
Project description:Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are a critical component of coral reefs as they accrete carbonate for reef structure and act as settlement substrata for many invertebrates including corals. CCA host a diversity of microorganisms that can also play a role in coral settlement and metamorphosis processes. Although the sensitivity of CCA to ocean acidification (OA) is well established, the response of their associated microbial communities to reduced pH and increased CO2 was previously not known. Here we investigate the sensitivity of CCA-associated microbial biofilms to OA and determine whether or not OA adversely affects the ability of CCA to induce coral larval metamorphosis. We experimentally exposed the CCA Hydrolithon onkodes to four pH/pCO2 conditions consistent with current IPCC predictions for the next few centuries (pH: 8.1, 7.9, 7.7, 7.5, pCO2 : 464, 822, 1187, 1638 ?atm). Settlement and metamorphosis of coral larvae was reduced on CCA pre-exposed to pH 7.7 (pCO2 = 1187 ?atm) and below over a 6-week period. Additional experiments demonstrated that low pH treatments did not directly affect the ability of larvae to settle, but instead most likely altered the biochemistry of the CCA or its microbial associates. Detailed microbial community analysis of the CCA revealed diverse bacterial assemblages that altered significantly between pH 8.1 (pCO2 = 464 ?atm) and pH 7.9 (pCO2 = 822 ?atm) with this trend continuing at lower pH/higher pCO2 treatments. The shift in microbial community composition primarily comprised changes in the abundance of the dominant microbes between the different pH treatments and the appearance of new (but rare) microbes at pH 7.5. Microbial shifts and the concomitant reduced ability of CCA to induce coral settlement under OA conditions projected to occur by 2100 is a significant concern for the development, maintenance and recovery of reefs globally.
Project description:Crustose coralline red algae (CCA) play a key role in the consolidation of many modern tropical coral reefs. It is unclear, however, if their function as reef consolidators was equally pronounced in the geological past. Using a comprehensive database on ancient reefs, we show a strong correlation between the presence of CCA and the formation of true coral reefs throughout the last 150 Ma. We investigated if repeated breakdowns in the potential capacity of CCA to spur reef development were associated with sea level, ocean temperature, CO2 concentration, CCA species diversity, and/or the evolution of major herbivore groups. Model results show that the correlation between the occurrence of CCA and the development of true coral reefs increased with CCA diversity and cooler ocean temperatures while the diversification of herbivores had a transient negative effect. The evolution of novel herbivore groups compromised the interaction between CCA and true reef growth at least three times in the investigated time interval. These crises have been overcome by morphological adaptations of CCA.
Project description:Ocean temperatures are increasing globally and the Caribbean is no exception. An extreme ocean warming event in 2010 placed Tobago's coral reefs under severe stress resulting in widespread coral bleaching and threatening the livelihoods that rely on them. The bleaching response of four reef building taxa was monitored over a six month period across three major reefs systems in Tobago. By identifying taxa resilient to bleaching we propose to assist local coral reef managers in the decision making process to cope with mass bleaching events. The bleaching signal (length of exposure to high ocean temperatures) varied widely between the Atlantic and Caribbean reefs, but regardless of this variation most taxa bleached. Colpophyllia natans, Montastraea faveolata and Siderastrea siderea were considered the most bleaching vulnerable taxa. Interestingly, reefs with the highest coral cover showed the greatest decline reef building taxa, and conversely, reefs with the lowest coral cover showed the most bleaching but lowest change in coral cover with little algal overgrowth post-bleaching.
Project description:Diseases threaten the structure and function of marine ecosystems and are contributing to the global decline of coral reefs. We currently lack an understanding of how climate change stressors, such as ocean acidification (OA) and warming, may simultaneously affect coral reef disease dynamics, particularly diseases threatening key reef-building organisms, for example crustose coralline algae (CCA). Here, we use coralline fungal disease (CFD), a previously described CCA disease from the Pacific, to examine these simultaneous effects using both field observations and experimental manipulations. We identify the associated fungus as belonging to the subphylum Ustilaginomycetes and show linear lesion expansion rates on individual hosts can reach 6.5 mm per day. Further, we demonstrate for the first time, to our knowledge, that ocean-warming events could increase the frequency of CFD outbreaks on coral reefs, but that OA-induced lowering of pH may ameliorate outbreaks by slowing lesion expansion rates on individual hosts. Lowered pH may still reduce overall host survivorship, however, by reducing calcification and facilitating fungal bio-erosion. Such complex, interactive effects between simultaneous extrinsic environmental stressors on disease dynamics are important to consider if we are to accurately predict the response of coral reef communities to future climate change.
Project description:Coral populations, and the productive reef ecosystems they support, rely on successful recruitment of reef-building species, beginning with settlement of dispersing larvae into habitat favourable to survival. Many substrate cues have been identified as contributors to coral larval habitat selection; however, the potential for ambient acoustic cues to influence coral settlement responses is unknown. Using <i>in situ</i> settlement chambers that excluded other habitat cues, larval settlement of a dominant Caribbean reef-building coral, <i>Orbicella faveolata</i>, was compared in response to three local soundscapes, with differing acoustic and habitat properties. Differences between reef sites in the number of larvae settled in chambers isolating acoustic cues corresponded to differences in sound levels and reef characteristics, with sounds at the loudest reef generating significantly higher settlement during trials compared to the quietest site (a 29.5 % increase). These results suggest that soundscapes could be an important influence on coral settlement patterns and that acoustic cues associated with reef habitat may be related to larval settlement. This study reports an effect of soundscape variation on larval settlement for a key coral species, and adds to the growing evidence that soundscapes affect marine ecosystems by influencing early life history processes of foundational species.
Project description:Microbial biofilms induce larval settlement for some invertebrates, including corals; however, the chemical cues involved have rarely been identified. Here, we demonstrate the role of microbial biofilms in inducing larval settlement with the Caribbean coral Porites astreoides and report the first instance of a chemical cue isolated from a marine biofilm bacterium that induces complete settlement (attachment and metamorphosis) of Caribbean coral larvae. Larvae settled in response to natural biofilms, and the response was eliminated when biofilms were treated with antibiotics. A similar settlement response was elicited by monospecific biofilms of a single bacterial strain, Pseudoalteromonas sp. PS5, isolated from the surface biofilm of a crustose coralline alga. The activity of Pseudoalteromonas sp. PS5 was attributed to the production of a single compound, tetrabromopyrrole (TBP), which has been shown previously to induce metamorphosis without attachment in Pacific acroporid corals. In addition to inducing settlement of brooded larvae (P. astreoides), TBP also induced larval settlement for two broadcast-spawning species, Orbicella (formerly Montastraea) franksi and Acropora palmata, indicating that this compound may have widespread importance among Caribbean coral species.
Project description:Coral reef ecosystems are threatened by both climate change and direct anthropogenic stress. Climate change will alter the physico-chemical environment that reefs currently occupy, leaving only limited regions that are conducive to reef habitation. Identifying these regions early may aid conservation efforts and inform decisions to transplant particular coral species or groups. Here a species distribution model (Maxent) is used to describe habitat suitable for coral reef growth. Two climate change scenarios (RCP4.5, RCP8.5) from the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Community Earth System Model were used with Maxent to determine environmental suitability for corals (order Scleractinia). Environmental input variables best at representing the limits of suitable reef growth regions were isolated using a principal component analysis. Climate-driven changes in suitable habitat depend strongly on the unique region of reefs used to train Maxent. Increased global habitat loss was predicted in both climate projections through the 21(st) century. A maximum habitat loss of 43% by 2100 was predicted in RCP4.5 and 82% in RCP8.5. When the model is trained solely with environmental data from the Caribbean/Atlantic, 83% of global habitat was lost by 2100 for RCP4.5 and 88% was lost for RCP8.5. Similarly, global runs trained only with Pacific Ocean reefs estimated that 60% of suitable habitat would be lost by 2100 in RCP4.5 and 90% in RCP8.5. When Maxent was trained solely with Indian Ocean reefs, suitable habitat worldwide increased by 38% in RCP4.5 by 2100 and 28% in RCP8.5 by 2050. Global habitat loss by 2100 was just 10% for RCP8.5. This projection suggests that shallow tropical sites in the Indian Ocean basin experience conditions today that are most similar to future projections of worldwide conditions. Indian Ocean reefs may thus be ideal candidate regions from which to select the best strands of coral for potential re-seeding efforts.