New insights into carbon acquisition and exchanges within the coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis under NH4+ and NO3- supply.
ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment affects the biogeochemical cycles and nutrient stoichiometry of coastal ecosystems and is often associated with coral reef decline. However, the mechanisms by which dissolved inorganic nutrients, and especially nitrogen forms (ammonium versus nitrate) can disturb the association between corals and their symbiotic algae are subject to controversial debate. Here, we investigated the coral response to varying N : P ratios, with nitrate or ammonium as a nitrogen source. We showed significant differences in the carbon acquisition by the symbionts and its allocation within the symbiosis according to nutrient abundance, type and stoichiometry. In particular, under low phosphate concentration (0.05 µM), a 3 µM nitrate enrichment induced a significant decrease in carbon fixation rate and low values of carbon translocation, compared with control conditions (N : P = 0.5 : 0.05), while these processes were significantly enhanced when nitrate was replaced by ammonium. A combined enrichment in ammonium and phosphorus (N : P = 3 : 1) induced a shift in nutrient allocation to the symbionts, at the detriment of the host. Altogether, these results shed light into the effect of nutrient enrichment on reef corals. More broadly, they improve our understanding of the consequences of nutrient loading on reef ecosystems, which is urgently required to refine risk management strategies.
Project description:The surface mucus layer of reef-building corals supports feeding, sediment clearing, and protection from pathogenic invaders. As much as half of the fixed carbon supplied by the corals' photosynthetic symbionts is incorporated into expelled mucus. It is therefore reasonable to expect that coral bleaching (disruption of the coral-algal symbiosis) would affect mucus production. Since coral mucus serves as an important nutrient source for the entire reef community, this could have substantial ecosystem-wide consequences. In this study, we examined the effects of heat stress-induced coral bleaching on the composition and antibacterial properties of coral mucus. In a controlled laboratory thermal challenge, stressed corals produced mucus with higher protein (? = 2.1, p < 0.001) and lipid content (? = 15.7, p = 0.02) and increased antibacterial activity (likelihood ratio = 100, p < 0.001) relative to clonal controls. These results are likely explained by the expelled symbionts in the mucus of bleached individuals. Our study suggests that coral bleaching could immediately impact the nutrient flux in the coral reef ecosystem via its effect on coral mucus.
Project description:Corals are in decline worldwide due to local anthropogenic stressors, such as nutrient loading, and global stressors, such as ocean warming. Anthropogenic nutrient loading, which is often rich in nitrate, inhibits coral growth and worsens corals' response to warming while natural sources of nitrogen, such as ammonium from fish excretion, promotes coral growth. Although the effects of nutrient loading and ocean warming have been well-studied, it remains unclear how these factors may interact with biotic processes, such as corallivory, to alter coral health and the coral microbiome. This study examined how nitrate vs. ammonium enrichment altered the effects of increased seawater temperature and simulated parrotfish corallivory on the health of Pocillopora meandrina and its microbial community. We tested the effects of nitrogen source on the response to corallivory under contrasting temperatures (control: 26 °C, warming: 29 °C) in a factorial mesocosm experiment in Moorea, French Polynesia. Corals were able to maintain growth rates despite simultaneous stressors. Seawater warming suppressed wound healing rates by nearly 66%. However, both ammonium and nitrate enrichment counteracted the effect of higher temperatures on would healing rates. Elevated seawater temperature and ammonium enrichment independently increased Symbiodiniaceae densities relative to controls, yet there was no effect of nitrate enrichment on algal symbiont densities. Microbiome variability increased with the addition of nitrate or ammonium. Moreover, microbial indicator analysis showed that Desulfovibrionaceae Operational taxonomic units (OTUs) are indicators of exclusively temperature stress while Rhodobacteraceae and Saprospiraceae OTUs were indicators of high temperature, wounding, and nitrogen enrichment. Overall, our results suggest that nitrogen source may not alter the response of the coral host to simultaneous stressors, but that the associated microbial community may be distinct depending on the source of enrichment.
Project description:Assimilation of inorganic nitrogen from nutrient-poor tropical seas is an essential challenge for the endosymbiosis between reef-building corals and dinoflagellates. Despite the clear evidence that reef-building corals can use ammonium as inorganic nitrogen source, the dynamics and precise roles of host and symbionts in this fundamental process remain unclear. Here, we combine high spatial resolution ion microprobe imaging (NanoSIMS) and pulse-chase isotopic labeling in order to track the dynamics of ammonium incorporation within the intact symbiosis between the reef-building coral Acropora aspera and its dinoflagellate symbionts. We demonstrate that both dinoflagellate and animal cells have the capacity to rapidly fix nitrogen from seawater enriched in ammonium (in less than one hour). Further, by establishing the relative strengths of the capability to assimilate nitrogen for each cell compartment, we infer that dinoflagellate symbionts can fix 14 to 23 times more nitrogen than their coral host cells in response to a sudden pulse of ammonium-enriched seawater. Given the importance of nitrogen in cell maintenance, growth and functioning, the capability to fix ammonium from seawater into the symbiotic system may be a key component of coral nutrition. Interestingly, this metabolic response appears to be triggered rapidly by episodic nitrogen availability. The methods and results presented in this study open up for the exploration of dynamics and spatial patterns associated with metabolic activities and nutritional interactions in a multitude of organisms that live in symbiotic relationships.
Project description:Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment and increased seawater temperatures are responsible for coral reef decline. In particular, they disrupt the relationship between corals and their dinoflagellate symbionts (bleaching). However, some coral species can afford either high temperatures or nutrient enrichment and their study can bring new insights into how corals acclimate or adapt to stressors. Here, we focused on the role of the nutrient history in influencing the response of the Mediterranean scleractinian coral Cladocora caespitosa to thermal stress. Colonies living naturally in nutrient-poor (<0.5 µM nitrogen, <0.2 µM phosphorus, LN) and nutrient-rich (ca. 10-20 µM nitrogen, 0.4 µM phosphorus, HN) locations were sampled, maintained under the right nutrient conditions, and exposed to a temperature increase from 17 °C to 24 °C and 29 °C. While both HN and LN colonies decreased their concentrations of symbionts and/or photosynthetic pigments, HN colonies were able to maintain significant higher rates of net and gross photosynthesis at 24 °C compared to LN colonies. In addition, while there was no change in protein concentration in HN corals during the experiment, proteins continuously decreased in LN corals with increased temperature. These results are important in that they show that nutrient history can influence the response of scleractinian corals to thermal stress. Further investigations of under-studied coral groups are thus required in the future to understand the processes leading to coral resistance to environmental perturbations.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Metabolic interactions with endosymbiotic photosynthetic dinoflagellate Symbiodinium spp. are fundamental to reef-building corals (Scleractinia) thriving in nutrient-poor tropical seas. Yet, detailed understanding at the single-cell level of nutrient assimilation, translocation, and utilization within this fundamental symbiosis is lacking. Using pulse-chase (15)N labeling and quantitative ion microprobe isotopic imaging (NanoSIMS; nanoscale secondary-ion mass spectrometry), we visualized these dynamic processes in tissues of the symbiotic coral Pocillopora damicornis at the subcellular level. Assimilation of ammonium, nitrate, and aspartic acid resulted in rapid incorporation of nitrogen into uric acid crystals (after ~45 min), forming temporary N storage sites within the dinoflagellate endosymbionts. Subsequent intracellular remobilization of this metabolite was accompanied by translocation of nitrogenous compounds to the coral host, starting at ~6 h. Within the coral tissue, nitrogen is utilized in specific cellular compartments in all four epithelia, including mucus chambers, Golgi bodies, and vesicles in calicoblastic cells. Our study shows how nitrogen-limited symbiotic corals take advantage of sudden changes in nitrogen availability; this opens new perspectives for functional studies of nutrient storage and remobilization in microbial symbioses in changing reef environments. IMPORTANCE:The methodology applied, combining transmission electron microscopy with nanoscale secondary-ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) imaging of coral tissue labeled with stable isotope tracers, allows quantification and submicrometric localization of metabolic fluxes in an intact symbiosis. This study opens the way for investigations of physiological adaptations of symbiotic systems to nutrient availability and for increasing knowledge of global nitrogen and carbon biogeochemical cycling.
Project description:Soft corals often constitute one of the major benthic groups of coral reefs. Although they have been documented to outcompete reef-building corals following environmental disturbances, their physiological performance and thus their functional importance in reefs are still poorly understood. In particular, the acclimatization to depth of soft corals harboring dinoflagellate symbionts and the metabolic interactions between these two partners have received little attention. We performed stable isotope tracer experiments on two soft coral species (Litophyton sp. and Rhytisma fulvum fulvum) from shallow and upper mesophotic Red Sea coral reefs to quantify the acquisition and allocation of autotrophic carbon within the symbiotic association. Carbon acquisition and respiration measurements distinguish Litophyton sp. as mainly autotrophic and Rhytisma fulvum fulvum as rather heterotrophic species. In both species, carbon acquisition was constant at the two investigated depths. This is a major difference from scleractinian corals, whose carbon acquisition decreases with depth. In addition, carbon acquisition and photosynthate translocation to the host decreased with an increase in symbiont density, suggesting that nutrient provision to octocoral symbionts can quickly become a limiting factor of their productivity. These findings improve our understanding of the biology of soft corals at the organism-scale and further highlight the need to investigate how their nutrition will be affected under changing environmental conditions.
Project description:The ecological success of shallow water reef-building corals has been linked to the symbiosis between the coral host and its dinoflagellate symbionts (herein 'symbionts'). As mixotrophs, symbiotic corals depend on nutrients 1) transferred from their photosynthetic symbionts (autotrophy) and 2) acquired by host feeding on particulate organic resources (heterotrophy). However, coral species differ in the extent to which they depend on heterotrophy for nutrition and these differences are typically poorly defined. Here, a multi-tracer fatty acid approach was used to evaluate the trophic strategies of three species of common reef-building coral (Galaxea fascicularis, Pachyseris speciosa, and Pocillopora verrucosa) whose trophic strategies had previously been identified using carbon stable isotopes. The composition and various indices of fatty acids were compared to examine the relative contribution of symbiont autotrophy and host heterotrophy in coral energy acquisition. A linear discriminant analysis (LDA) was used to estimate the contribution of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) derived from various potential sources to the coral hosts. The total fatty acid composition and fatty acid indices revealed differences between the more heterotrophic (P. verrucosa) and more autotrophic (P. speciosa) coral hosts, with the coral host G. fascicularis showing overlap with the other two species and greater variability overall. For the more heterotrophic P. verrucosa, the fatty acid indices and LDA results both indicated a greater proportion of copepod-derived fatty acids compared to the other coral species. Overall, the LDA estimated that PUFA derived from particulate resources (e.g., copepods and diatoms) comprised a greater proportion of coral host PUFA in contrast to the lower proportion of symbiont-derived PUFA. These estimates provide insight into the importance of heterotrophy in coral nutrition, especially in productive reef systems. The study supports carbon stable isotope results and demonstrates the utility of fatty acid analyses for exploring the trophic strategies of reef-building corals.
Project description:Terrestrial runoff after heavy rainfall can increase nutrient concentrations in waters overlying coral reefs that otherwise experience low nutrient levels. Field measurements during a runoff event showed a sharp increase in nitrate (75-fold), phosphate (31-fold) and ammonium concentrations (3-fold) in waters overlying a fringing reef at the island of Curaçao (Southern Caribbean). To understand how benthic reef organisms make use of such nutrient pulses, we determined ammonium, nitrate and phosphate uptake rates for one abundant coral species, turf algae, six macroalgal and two benthic cyanobacterial species in a series of laboratory experiments. Nutrient uptake rates differed among benthic functional groups. The filamentous macroalga Cladophora spp., turf algae and the benthic cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula had the highest uptake rates per unit biomass, whereas the coral Madracis mirabilis had the lowest. Combining nutrient uptake rates with the standing biomass of each functional group on the reef, we estimated that the ammonium and phosphate delivered during runoff events is mostly taken up by turf algae and the two macroalgae Lobophora variegata and Dictyota pulchella. Our results support the often proposed, but rarely tested, assumption that turf algae and opportunistic macroalgae primarily benefit from episodic inputs of nutrients to coral reefs.
Project description:Enrichment of reef environments with dissolved inorganic nutrients is considered a major threat to the survival of corals living in symbiosis with dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium sp.). We argue, however, that the direct negative effects on the symbiosis are not necessarily caused by the nutrient enrichment itself but by the phosphorus starvation of the algal symbionts that can be caused by skewed nitrogen (N) to phosphorus (P) ratios. We exposed corals to imbalanced N:P ratios in long-term experiments and found that the undersupply of phosphate severely disturbed the symbiosis, indicated by the loss of coral biomass, malfunctioning of algal photosynthesis and bleaching of the corals. In contrast, the corals tolerated an undersupply with nitrogen at high phosphate concentrations without negative effects on symbiont photosynthesis, suggesting a better adaptation to nitrogen limitation. Transmission electron microscopy analysis revealed that the signatures of ultrastructural biomarkers represent versatile tools for the classification of nutrient stress in symbiotic algae. Notably, high N:P ratios in the water were clearly identified by the accumulation of uric acid crystals.
Project description:The evolutionary success of reef-building corals is often attributed to photosymbiosis, a mutualistic relationship scleractinian corals developed with zooxanthellae; however, because zooxanthellae are not fossilized, it is difficult (and contentious) to determine whether ancient corals harbored symbionts. In this study, we analyze the ?15N of skeletal organic matrix in a suite of modern and fossil scleractinian corals (zooxanthellate- and azooxanthellate-like) with varying levels of diagenetic alteration. Significantly, we report the first analyses that distinguish shallow-water zooxanthellate and deep-water azooxanthellate fossil corals. Early Miocene (18-20 Ma) corals exhibit the same nitrogen isotopic ratio offset identified in modern corals. These results suggest that the coral organic matrix ?15N proxy can successfully be used to detect photosymbiosis in the fossil record. This proxy will significantly improve our ability to effectively define the evolutionary relationship between photosymbiosis and reef-building through space and time. For example, Late Triassic corals have symbiotic values, which tie photosymbiosis to major coral reef expansion. Furthermore, the early Miocene corals from Indonesia have low ?15N values relative to modern corals, implying that the west Pacific was a nutrient-depleted environment and that oligotrophy may have facilitated the diversification of the reef builders in the Coral Triangle.