Project description:In 2009 the NW and SE flanks of Anton Dohrn Seamount were surveyed using multibeam echosounder and video ground-truthing to characterise megabenthic biological assemblages (biotopes) and assess those which clearly adhere to the definition of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, for use in habitat mapping. A combination of multivariate analysis of still imagery and video ground-truthing defined 13 comprehensive descriptions of biotopes that function as mapping units in an applied context. The data reveals that the NW and SE sides of Anton Dohrn Seamount (ADS) are topographically complex and harbour diverse biological assemblages, some of which agree with current definitions of 'listed' habitats of conservation concern. Ten of these biotopes could easily be considered Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems; three coral gardens, four cold-water coral reefs, two xenophyophore communities and one sponge dominated community, with remaining biotopes requiring more detailed assessment. Coral gardens were only found on positive geomorphic features, namely parasitic cones and radial ridges, found both sides of the seamount over a depth of 1311-1740 m. Two cold-water coral reefs (equivalent to summit reef) were mapped on the NW side of the seamount; Lophelia pertusa reef associated with the cliff top mounds at a depth of 747-791 m and Solenosmilia variabilis reef on a radial ridge at a depth of 1318-1351 m. Xenophyophore communities were mapped from both sides of the seamount at a depth of 1099-1770 m and were either associated with geomorphic features or were in close proximity (< 100 m) to them. The sponge dominated community was found on the steep escarpment either side of the seamount over at a depth of 854-1345 m. Multivariate diversity revealed the xenophyophore biotopes to be the least diverse, and a hard substratum biotope characterised by serpulids and the sessile holothurian, Psolus squamatus, as the most diverse.
Project description:Much recent marine microbial research has focused on sponges, but very little is known about how the sponge microbiome fits in the greater coral reef microbial metacommunity. Here, we present an extensive survey of the prokaryote communities of a wide range of biotopes from Indo-Pacific coral reef environments. We find a large variation in operational taxonomic unit (OTU) richness, with algae, chitons, stony corals and sea cucumbers housing the most diverse prokaryote communities. These biotopes share a higher percentage and number of OTUs with sediment and are particularly enriched in members of the phylum Planctomycetes. Despite having lower OTU richness, sponges share the greatest percentage (>90%) of OTUs with >100 sequences with the environment (sediment and/or seawater) although there is considerable variation among sponge species. Our results, furthermore, highlight that prokaryote microorganisms are shared among multiple coral reef biotopes, and that, although compositionally distinct, the sponge prokaryote community does not appear to be as sponge-specific as previously thought.
Project description:Acoustic recording has been recognized as a valuable tool for non-intrusive monitoring of the marine environment, complementing traditional visual surveys. Acoustic surveys conducted on coral ecosystems have so far been restricted to barrier reefs and to shallow depths (10-30 m). Since they may provide refuge for coral reef organisms, the monitoring of outer reef slopes and describing of the soundscapes of deeper environment could provide insights into the characteristics of different biotopes of coral ecosystems. In this study, the acoustic features of four different habitats, with different topographies and substrates, located at different depths from 10 to 100 m, were recorded during day-time on the outer reef slope of the north Coast of Moorea Island (French Polynesia). Barrier reefs appeared to be the noisiest habitats whereas the average sound levels at other habitats decreased with their distance from the reef and with increasing depth. However, sound levels were higher than expected by propagation models, supporting that these habitats possess their own sound sources. While reef sounds are known to attract marine larvae, sounds from deeper habitats may then also have a non-negligible attractive potential, coming into play before the reef itself.
Project description:Parts of coral reefs from New Caledonia (South Pacific) were registered at the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008. Management strategies aiming at preserving the exceptional ecological value of these reefs in the context of climate change are currently being considered. This study evaluates the appropriateness of an exclusive fishing ban of herbivorous fish as a strategy to enhance coral reef resilience to hurricanes and bleaching in the UNESCO-registered areas of New Caledonia. A two-phase approach was developed: 1) coral, macroalgal, and herbivorous fish communities were examined in four biotopes from 14 reefs submitted to different fishing pressures in New Caledonia, and 2) results from these analyses were challenged in the context of a global synthesis of the relationship between herbivorous fish protection, coral recovery and relative macroalgal development after hurricanes and bleaching. Analyses of New Caledonia data indicated that 1) current fishing pressure only slightly affected herbivorous fish communities in the country, and 2) coral and macroalgal covers remained unrelated, and macroalgal cover was not related to the biomass, density or diversity of macroalgae feeders, whatever the biotope or level of fishing pressure considered. At a global scale, we found no relationship between reef protection status, coral recovery and relative macroalgal development after major climatic events. These results suggest that an exclusive protection of herbivorous fish in New Caledonia is unlikely to improve coral reef resilience to large-scale climatic disturbances, especially in the lightly fished UNESCO-registered areas. More efforts towards the survey and regulation of major chronic stress factors such as mining are rather recommended. In the most heavily fished areas of the country, carnivorous fish and large targeted herbivores may however be monitored as part of a precautionary approach.
Project description:Shallow-water coral reef ecosystems, particularly those already impaired by anthropogenic pressures, may be highly sensitive to disturbances from natural catastrophic events, such as volcanic eruptions. Explosive volcanic eruptions expel large quantities of silicate ash particles into the atmosphere, which can disperse across millions of square kilometres and deposit into coral reef ecosystems. Following heavy ash deposition, mass mortality of reef biota is expected, but little is known about the recovery of post-burial reef ecosystems. Reef regeneration depends partly upon the capacity of the ash deposit to be colonised by waterborne bacterial communities and may be influenced to an unknown extent by the physiochemical properties of the ash substrate itself. To determine the potential for volcanic ash to support pioneer bacterial colonisation, we exposed five well-characterised volcanic and coral reef substrates to a marine aquarium under low light conditions for 3 months: volcanic ash, synthetic volcanic glass, carbonate reef sand, calcite sand and quartz sand. Multivariate statistical analysis of Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA) fingerprinting data demonstrates clear segregation of volcanic substrates from the quartz and coral reef substrates over 3 months of bacterial colonisation. Overall bacterial diversity showed shared and substrate-specific bacterial communities; however, the volcanic ash substrate supported the most diverse bacterial community. These data suggest a significant influence of substrate properties (composition, granulometry and colour) on bacterial settlement. Our findings provide first insights into physicochemical controls on pioneer bacterial colonisation of volcanic ash and highlight the potential for volcanic ash deposits to support bacterial diversity in the aftermath of reef burial, on timescales that could permit cascading effects on larval settlement.