Project description:Microbially mediated processes contribute to coral reef resilience yet, despite extensive characterisation of microbial community variation following environmental perturbation, the effect on microbiome function is poorly understood. We undertook metagenomic sequencing of sponge, macroalgae and seawater microbiomes from a macroalgae-dominated inshore coral reef to define their functional potential and evaluate seasonal shifts in microbially mediated processes. In total, 125 high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes were reconstructed, spanning 15 bacterial and 3 archaeal phyla. Multivariate analysis of the genomes relative abundance revealed changes in the functional potential of reef microbiomes in relation to seasonal environmental fluctuations (e.g. macroalgae biomass, temperature). For example, a shift from Alphaproteobacteria to Bacteroidota-dominated seawater microbiomes occurred during summer, resulting in an increased genomic potential to degrade macroalgal-derived polysaccharides. An 85% reduction of Chloroflexota was observed in the sponge microbiome during summer, with potential consequences for nutrition, waste product removal, and detoxification in the sponge holobiont. A shift in the Firmicutes:Bacteroidota ratio was detected on macroalgae over summer with potential implications for polysaccharide degradation in macroalgal microbiomes. These results highlight that seasonal shifts in the dominant microbial taxa alter the functional repertoire of host-associated and seawater microbiomes, and highlight how environmental perturbation can affect microbially mediated processes in coral reef ecosystems.
Project description:Herbivory is widely accepted as a vital function on coral reefs. To date, the majority of studies examining herbivory in coral reef environments have focused on the roles of fishes and/or urchins, with relatively few studies considering the potential role of macroherbivores in reef processes. Here, we introduce evidence that highlights the potential role of marine turtles as herbivores on coral reefs. While conducting experimental habitat manipulations to assess the roles of herbivorous reef fishes we observed green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) showing responses that were remarkably similar to those of herbivorous fishes. Reducing the sediment load of the epilithic algal matrix on a coral reef resulted in a forty-fold increase in grazing by green turtles. Hawksbill turtles were also observed to browse transplanted thalli of the macroalga Sargassum swartzii in a coral reef environment. These responses not only show strong parallels to herbivorous reef fishes, but also highlight that marine turtles actively, and intentionally, remove algae from coral reefs. When considering the size and potential historical abundance of marine turtles we suggest that these potentially valuable herbivores may have been lost from many coral reefs before their true importance was understood.
Project description:Overfishing threatens coral reefs worldwide, yet there is no reliable estimate on the number of reef fishers globally. We address this data gap by quantifying the number of reef fishers on a global scale, using two approaches - the first estimates reef fishers as a proportion of the total number of marine fishers in a country, based on the ratio of reef-related to total marine fish landed values. The second estimates reef fishers as a function of coral reef area, rural coastal population, and fishing pressure. In total, we find that there are 6 million reef fishers in 99 reef countries and territories worldwide, of which at least 25% are reef gleaners. Our estimates are an improvement over most existing fisher population statistics, which tend to omit accounting for gleaners and reef fishers. Our results suggest that slightly over a quarter of the world's small-scale fishers fish on coral reefs, and half of all coral reef fishers are in Southeast Asia. Coral reefs evidently support the socio-economic well-being of numerous coastal communities. By quantifying the number of people who are employed as reef fishers, we provide decision-makers with an important input into planning for sustainable coral reef fisheries at the appropriate scale.