Project description:Coral reefs worldwide are suffering mass mortalities from marine heat waves. With the aim of enhancing coral bleaching tolerance, we evolved 10 clonal strains of a common coral microalgal endosymbiont at elevated temperatures (31°C) for 4 years in the laboratory. All 10 heat-evolved strains had expanded their thermal tolerance in vitro following laboratory evolution. After reintroduction into coral host larvae, 3 of the 10 heat-evolved endosymbionts also increased the holobionts' bleaching tolerance. Although lower levels of secreted reactive oxygen species (ROS) accompanied thermal tolerance of the heat-evolved algae, reduced ROS secretion alone did not predict thermal tolerance in symbiosis. The more tolerant symbiosis exhibited additional higher constitutive expression of algal carbon fixation genes and coral heat tolerance genes. These findings demonstrate that coral stock with enhanced climate resilience can be developed through ex hospite laboratory evolution of their microalgal endosymbionts.
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:Coral-associated microorganisms play an important role in their host fitness and survival. A number of studies have demonstrated connections between thermal tolerance in corals and the type/relative abundance of Symbiodinium they harbor. More recently, the shifts in coral-associated bacterial profiles were also shown to be linked to the patterns of coral heat tolerance. Here, we investigated the dynamics of Porites lutea-associated bacterial and algal communities throughout a natural bleaching event, using full-length 16S rRNA and internal transcribed spacer sequences (ITS) obtained from PacBio circular consensus sequencing. We provided evidence of significant changes in the structure and diversity of coral-associated microbiomes during thermal stress. The balance of the symbiosis shifted from a predominant association between corals and Gammaproteobacteria to a predominance of Alphaproteobacteria and to a lesser extent Betaproteobacteria following the bleaching event. On the contrary, the composition and diversity of Symbiodinium communities remained unaltered throughout the bleaching event. It appears that the switching and/or shuffling of Symbiodinium types may not be the primary mechanism used by P. lutea to cope with increasing seawater temperature. The shifts in the structure and diversity of associated bacterial communities may contribute more to the survival of the coral holobiont under heat stress.
Project description:Coral bleaching, during which corals lose their symbiotic dinoflagellates, typically corresponds with periods of intense heat stress, and appears to be increasing in frequency and geographic extent as the climate warms. A fundamental question in coral reef ecology is whether chronic local stress reduces coral resistance and resilience from episodic stress such as bleaching, or alternatively promotes acclimatization, potentially increasing resistance and resilience. Here we show that following a major bleaching event, Montastraea faveolata coral growth rates at sites with higher local anthropogenic stressors remained suppressed for at least 8 years, while coral growth rates at sites with lower stress recovered in 2-3 years. Instead of promoting acclimatization, our data indicate that background stress reduces coral fitness and resilience to episodic events. We also suggest that reducing chronic stress through local coral reef management efforts may increase coral resilience to global climate change.
Project description:Dysbiosis of coral microbiomes results from various biotic and environmental stressors, including interactions with important reef fishes which may act as vectors of opportunistic microbes via deposition of fecal material. Additionally, elevated sea surface temperatures have direct effects on coral microbiomes by promoting growth and virulence of opportunists and putative pathogens, thereby altering host immunity and health. However, interactions between these biotic and abiotic factors have yet to be evaluated. Here, we used a factorial experiment to investigate the combined effects of fecal pellet deposition by the widely distributed surgeonfish <i>Ctenochaetus striatus</i> and elevated sea surface temperatures on microbiomes associated with the reef-building coral <i>Porites lobata</i>. Our results showed that regardless of temperature, exposure of <i>P. lobata</i> to <i>C. striatus</i> feces increased alpha diversity, dispersion, and lead to a shift in microbial community composition - all indicative of microbial dysbiosis. Although elevated temperature did not result in significant changes in alpha and beta diversity, we noted an increasing number of differentially abundant taxa in corals exposed to both feces and thermal stress within the first 48h of the experiment. These included opportunistic microbial lineages and taxa closely related to potential coral pathogens (i.e., <i>Vibrio vulnificus</i>, <i>Photobacterium rosenbergii</i>). Some of these taxa were absent in controls but present in surgeonfish feces under both temperature regimes, suggesting mechanisms of microbial transmission and/or enrichment from fish feces to corals. Importantly, the impact to coral microbiomes by fish feces under higher temperatures appeared to inhibit wound healing in corals, as percentages of tissue recovery at the site of feces deposition were lower at 30°C compared to 26°C. Lower percentages of tissue recovery were associated with greater relative abundance of several bacterial lineages, with some of them found in surgeonfish feces (i.e., Rhodobacteraceae, Bdellovibrionaceae, Crocinitomicaceae). Our findings suggest that fish feces interact with elevated sea surface temperatures to favor microbial opportunism and enhance dysbiosis susceptibility in <i>P. lobata</i>. As the frequency and duration of thermal stress related events increase, the ability of coral microbiomes to recover from biotic stressors such as deposition of fish feces may be greatly affected, ultimately compromising coral health and resilience.
Project description:Ecological restoration of forests, meadows, reefs, or other foundational ecosystems during climate change depends on the discovery and use of individuals able to withstand future conditions. For coral reefs, climate-tolerant corals might not remain tolerant in different environments because of widespread environmental adjustment of coral physiology and symbionts. Here, we test if parent corals retain their heat tolerance in nursery settings, if simple proxies predict successful colonies, and if heat-tolerant corals suffer lower growth or survival in normal settings. Before the 2015 natural bleaching event in American Samoa, we set out 800 coral fragments from 80 colonies of four species selected by prior tests to have a range of intraspecific natural heat tolerance. After the event, nursery stock from heat-tolerant parents showed two to three times less bleaching across species than nursery stock from less tolerant parents. They also retained higher individual genetic diversity through the bleaching event than did less heat-tolerant corals. The three best proxies for thermal tolerance were response to experimental heat stress, location on the reef, and thermal microclimate. Molecular biomarkers were also predictive but were highly species specific. Colony genotype and symbiont genus played a similarly strong role in predicting bleaching. Combined, our results show that selecting for host and symbiont resilience produced a multispecies coral nursery that withstood multiple bleaching events, that proxies for thermal tolerance in restoration can work across species and be inexpensive, and that different coral clones within species reacted very differently to bleaching.
Project description:Increasing frequency and severity of disturbances is causing global degradation of coral reef ecosystems. This study examined temporal changes in live coral cover and coral composition in the central Maldives from 1997 to 2016, encompassing two bleaching events, a tsunami, and an outbreak of Acanthaster planci. We also examined the contemporary size structure for five dominant coral taxa (tabular Acropora, Acropora muricata, Acropora humilis, Pocillopora spp, and massive Porites). Total coral cover increased throughout the study period, with marked increases following the 1998 mass-bleaching. The relative abundance of key genera has changed through time, where Acropora and Pocillopora (which are highly susceptible to bleaching) were under-represented following 1998 mass-bleaching but increased until outbreaks of A. planci in 2015. The contemporary size-structure for all coral taxa was dominated by larger colonies with peaked distributions suggesting that recent disturbances had a disproportionate impact on smaller colonies, or that recruitment is currently limited. This may suggest that coral resilience has been compromised by recent disturbances, and further bleaching (expected in 2016) could lead to highly protracted recovery times. We showed that Maldivian reefs recovered following the 1998 mass-bleaching event, but it took up to a decade, and ongoing disturbances may be eroding reef resilience.
Project description:Global environmental change has the potential to disrupt well established species interactions, with impacts on nutrient cycling and ecosystem function. On coral reefs, fish living within the branches of coral colonies can promote coral performance, and it has been hypothesized that the enhanced water flow and nutrients provided by fish to corals could ameliorate coral bleaching. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of small, aggregating damselfish on the health of their host corals (physiology, recovery, and survival) before, during, and after a thermal-bleaching event. When comparing coral colonies with and without fish, those with resident fish exhibited higher Symbiodinium densities and chlorophyll in both field and experimentally-induced bleaching conditions, and higher protein concentrations in field colonies. Additionally, colonies with damselfish in aquaria exhibited both higher photosynthetic efficiency (FV/FM) during bleaching stress and post-bleaching recovery, compared to uninhabited colonies. These results demonstrate that symbiotic damselfishes, and the services they provide, translate into measureable impacts on coral tissue, and can influence coral bleaching susceptibility/resilience and recovery. By mediating how external abiotic stressors influence coral colony health, damselfish can affect the functional responses of these interspecific interactions in a warming ocean.
Project description:Globally increasing sea surface temperatures threaten coral reefs, both directly and through interactions with local stressors. More resilient reefs have a higher likelihood of returning to a coral-dominated state following a disturbance, such as a mass bleaching event. To advance practical approaches to reef resilience assessments and aid resilience-based management of coral reefs, we conducted a resilience assessment for Puerto Rico's coral reefs, modified from methods used in other U.S. jurisdictions. We calculated relative resilience scores for 103 sites from an existing commonwealth-wide survey using eight resilience indicators-such as coral diversity, macroalgae percent cover, and herbivorous fish biomass-and assessed which indicators most drove resilience. We found that sites of very different relative resilience were generally highly spatially intermixed, underscoring the importance and necessity of decision making and management at fine scales. In combination with information on levels of two localized stressors (fishing pressure and pollution exposure), we used the resilience indicators to assess which of seven potential management actions could be used at each site to maintain or improve resilience. Fishery management was the management action that applied to the most sites. Furthermore, we combined sites' resilience scores with projected ocean warming to assign sites to vulnerability categories. Island-wide or community-level managers can use the actions and vulnerability information as a starting point for resilience-based management of their reefs. This assessment differs from many previous ones because we tested how much information could be yielded by a "desktop" assessment using freely-available, existing data rather than from a customized, resilience-focused field survey. The available data still permitted analyses comparable to previous assessments, demonstrating that desktop resilience assessments can substitute for assessments with field components under some circumstances.
Project description:Rare species population dynamics can elucidate the resilience of an ecosystem. On coral reefs, climate change and local anthropogenic stressors are threatening stony coral persistence, increasing the need to assess vulnerable species locally. Here, we monitored the threatened pillar coral, Dendrogyra cylindrus, population in southeast Florida, USA, in relation to consecutive heat stress events in 2014 and 2015. In the fall of each year, D. cylindrus colonies bleached following intense thermal stress and by June 2020 all monitored colonies died from a white-syndrome type disease. This resulted in the ecological extinction of D. cylindrus in the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area (ECA). White-syndrome type disease was first seen in February 2014 on four colonies (19% prevalence) near the major international port, Port Everglades and disease prevalence peaked in fall 2015 (58%). Disease prevalence increased with maximum water temperature, while disease related mortality increased with mean water temperature. Our findings suggest that thermal stress exacerbated underlying stony coral disease, resulting in an outbreak contributing to the ecological extirpation of D. cylindrus in the ECA. We suggest that stony coral resilience is severely compromised by chronic environmental disturbance which hinders community recovery.