Large amplitude internal waves (LAIW) cause frequent and severe changes in the physico-chemical environment of Andaman Sea coral reefs and are a potentially important source of disturbance for corals. To explore the coral response to LAIW, prey capture disposition and photosynthesis were investigated in relation to changes in seawater temperature, pH, flow speed and food availability in LAIW simulation studies under controlled laboratory conditions, using Porites lutea as a model organism. Although food presence stimulated polyp expansion, we found an overriding effect of low temperature (19°C) causing retraction of the coral polyps into their calices, particularly when pH was altered concomitantly. Decreases in pH alone, however, caused the expansion of the polyps. The exposure history of the colonies played a crucial role in coral responses: prior field exposure to LAIW yielded lower retraction levels than in LAIW-inexperienced corals, suggesting acclimatization. Low temperature (19°C) exposure did not seem to influence the photosynthetic performance, but LAIW-experienced corals showed higher values of maximum dark-adapted quantum yield (Fv/Fm) of photosystem II than LAIW-inexperienced controls. Collectively, these data suggest that P. lutea, the dominant hermatypic coral in the Andaman Sea, can acclimatize to extreme changes in its abiotic environment by modulating its mixotrophic nutrition, through polyp expansion and potential feeding, as well as its photosynthetic efficiency.
Over 30% of the Antarctic continental shelf is permanently covered by floating ice shelves, providing aphotic conditions for a depauperate fauna sustained by laterally advected food. In much of the remaining Antarctic shallows (<300 m depth), seasonal sea-ice melting allows a patchy primary production supporting rich megabenthic communities dominated by glass sponges (Porifera, Hexactinellida). The catastrophic collapse of ice shelves due to rapid regional warming along the Antarctic Peninsula in recent decades has exposed over 23,000 km(2) of seafloor to local primary production. The response of the benthos to this unprecedented flux of food is, however, still unknown. In 2007, 12 years after disintegration of the Larsen A ice shelf, a first biological survey interpreted the presence of hexactinellids as remnants of a former under-ice fauna with deep-sea characteristics. Four years later, we revisited the original transect, finding 2- and 3-fold increases in glass sponge biomass and abundance, respectively, after only two favorable growth periods. Our findings, along with other long-term studies, suggest that Antarctic hexactinellids, locked in arrested growth for decades, may undergo boom-and-bust cycles, allowing them to quickly colonize new habitats. The cues triggering growth and reproduction in Antarctic glass sponges remain enigmatic.
Coral recruitment was assessed in highly diverse and economically important Spermonde Archipelago, a reef system subjected to land-based sources of siltation/pollution and destructive fishing, over a period of 2 years. Recruitment on settlement tiles reached up to 705 spat m(-2) yr(-1) and was strongest in the dry season (July-October), except off-shore, where larvae settled earlier. Pocilloporidae dominated near-shore, while a more diverse community of Acroporidae, Poritidae and others settled in the less polluted mid-shelf and off-shore reefs. Non-coral fouling community appeared to hardly influence initial coral settlement on the tiles, although, this does not necessarily infer low coral post-settlement mortality, which may be enhanced at the near- and off-shore reefs as indicated by increased abundances of potential space competitors on natural substrate. Blast fishing showed no local reduction in coral recruitment and live hard coral cover increased in oligotrophic reefs, indicating potential for coral recovery, if managed effectively.
Cold-water corals provide an important habitat for a rich fauna along the continental margins and slopes. Although these azooxanthellate corals are considered particularly sensitive to ocean acidification, their responses to natural variations in pH and aragonite saturation are largely unknown due to the difficulty of studying their ecology in deep waters. Previous SCUBA investigations have shown an exceptionally shallow population of the cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus in near-surface waters of Comau Fjord, a stratified 480 m deep basin in northern Chilean Patagonia with suboxic deep waters. Here, we use a remotely operated vehicle to quantitatively investigate the distribution of D. dianthus and its physico-chemical drivers in so far uncharted naturally acidified waters. Remarkably, D. dianthus was ubiquitous throughout the fjord, but particularly abundant between 20 and 280 m depth in a pH range of 8.4 to 7.4. The persistence of individuals in aragonite-undersaturated waters suggests that present-day D. dianthus in Comau Fjord may show pre-acclimation or pre-adaptation to conditions of ocean acidification predicted to reach over 70% of the known deep-sea coral locations by the end of the century.
Coral reefs are facing rapidly changing environments, but implications for reef ecosystem functioning and important services, such as productivity, are difficult to predict. Comparative investigations on coral reefs that are naturally exposed to differing environmental settings can provide essential information in this context. One prevalent phenomenon regularly introducing alterations in water chemistry into coral reefs are internal waves. This study therefore investigates the effect of large amplitude internal waves (LAIW) on primary productivity in coral reefs at the Similan Islands (Andaman Sea, Thailand). The LAIW-exposed west sides of the islands are subjected to sudden drops in water temperature accompanied by enhanced inorganic nutrient concentrations compared to the sheltered east. At the central island, Ko Miang, east and west reefs are only few hundred meters apart, but feature pronounced differences. On the west lower live coral cover (-38 %) coincides with higher turf algae cover (+64 %) and growth (+54 %) compared to the east side. Turf algae and the reef sand-associated microphytobenthos displayed similar chlorophyll a contents on both island sides, but under LAIW exposure, turf algae exhibited higher net photosynthesis (+23 %), whereas the microphytobenthos displayed reduced net and gross photosynthesis (-19 % and -26 %, respectively) accompanied by lower respiration (-42 %). In contrast, the predominant coral Porites lutea showed higher chlorophyll a tissues contents (+42 %) on the LAIW-exposed west in response to lower light availability and higher inorganic nutrient concentrations, but net photosynthesis was comparable for both sides. Turf algae were the major primary producers on the west side, whereas microphytobenthos dominated on the east. The overall primary production rate (comprising all main benthic primary producers) was similar on both island sides, which indicates high primary production variability under different environmental conditions.
The Similan Islands (Thailand) in the Andaman Sea are exposed to large amplitude internal waves (LAIW), as evidenced by i.a. abrupt fluctuations in temperature of up to 10°C at supertidal frequencies. Although LAIW have been shown to affect coral composition and framework development in shallow waters, the role of LAIW on coral growth is so far unknown. We carried out a long-term transplant experiment with live nubbins and skeleton slabs of the dominating coral Porites lutea to assess the net growth and bioerosion in LAIW-exposed and LAIW-protected waters. Depth-related, seasonal and interannual differences in LAIW-intensities on the exposed western sides of the islands allowed us to separate the effect of LAIW from other possible factors (e.g. monsoon) affecting the corals. Coral growth and bioerosion were inversely related to LAIW intensity, and positively related to coral framework development. Accretion rates of calcareous fouling organisms on the slabs were negligible compared to bioerosion, reflecting the lack of a true carbonate framework on the exposed W faces of the Similan Islands. Our findings show that LAIW may play an important, yet so far overlooked, role in controlling coral growth in tropical waters.
Coral bleaching is the manifestation of the dysfunction of the symbiosis between scleractinian corals and dinoflagellates of the diverse genus Symbiodinium and is induced by elevated temperatures and high irradiance. We investigated the photophysiological response of two genetically distinct Symbiodinium subtypes within clade A upon exposure to elevated temperatures at two light intensities for 3 weeks. While both subtypes displayed a characteristic photoacclimation to high light (HL) (decrease in light-harvesting pigments, lower photochemical efficiency of photosystem II, increased xanthophyll pool sizes), the tolerance toward thermal stress clearly differed between the two subtypes. Symbiodinium Ax was highly susceptible to chronic photoinhibition at temperatures ?30°C, which was exacerbated under HL conditions. A1 showed a capacity for photoacclimation and high thermal tolerance, which might be related to higher cellular concentrations of photoprotective xanthophylls and the low-molecular antioxidant glutathione (GSx) along with the dynamic regulation of these photoprotective pathways. Whereas HL conditions induced both accumulation of diatoxanthin and GSx, thermal stress further stimulated xanthophyll cycling, which might compensate for diminished amounts of GSx at elevated temperatures. Our results show that the two clade A subtypes clearly differ in their strategies to cope with thermal stress in combination with high irradiance.
Biofilms play an important role as a settlement cue for invertebrate larvae and significantly contribute to the nutrient turnover in aquatic ecosystems. Nevertheless, little is known about how biofilm community structure generally responds to environmental changes. This study aimed to identify patterns of bacterial dynamics in coral reef biofilms in response to associated macrofouling community structure, microhabitat (exposed vs. sheltered), seasonality, and eutrophication. Settlement tiles were deployed at four reefs along a cross-shelf eutrophication gradient and were exchanged every 4 months over 20 months. The fouling community composition on the tiles was recorded and the bacterial community structure was assessed with the community fingerprinting technique Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA). Bacterial operational taxonomic unit (OTU) number was higher on exposed tiles, where the fouling community was homogenous and algae-dominated, than in sheltered habitats, which were occupied by a variety of filter feeders. Furthermore, OTU number was also highest in eutrophied near-shore reefs, while seasonal variations in community structure were most pronounced in the oligotrophic mid-shelf reef. In contrast, the macrofouling community structure did not change significantly with seasons. Changes in bacterial community patterns were mostly affected by microhabitat, seasonal and anthropogenically derived changes in nutrient availability, and to a lesser extent by changes in the macrofouling community structure. Path analysis revealed a complex interplay of various environmental and biological factors explaining the spatial and temporal variations in bacterial biofilm communities under natural conditions.
The Andaman Sea and other macrotidal semi-enclosed tropical seas feature large amplitude internal waves (LAIW). Although LAIW induce strong fluctuations i.e. of temperature, pH, and nutrients, their influence on reef development is so far unknown. A better-known source of disturbance is the monsoon affecting corals due to turbulent mixing and sedimentation. Because in the Andaman Sea both, LAIW and monsoon, act from the same westerly direction their relative contribution to reef development is difficult to discern. Here, we explore the framework development in a number of offshore island locations subjected to differential LAIW- and SW-monsoon impact to address this open question. Cumulative negative temperature anomalies - a proxy for LAIW impact - explained a higher percentage of the variability in coral reef framework height, than sedimentation rates which resulted mainly from the monsoon. Temperature anomalies and sediment grain size provided the best correlation with framework height suggesting that so far neglected subsurface processes (LAIW) play a significant role in shaping coral reefs.
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