Algal symbionts (zooxanthellae, genus Symbiodinium) of scleractinian corals respond strongly to temperature, nutrient and light changes. These factors vary greatly along the north-south gradient in the Red Sea and include conditions, which are outside of those typically considered optimal for coral growth. Nevertheless, coral communities thrive throughout the Red Sea, suggesting that zooxanthellae have successfully acclimatized or adapted to the harsh conditions they experience particularly in the south (high temperatures and high nutrient supply). As such, the Red Sea is a region, which may help to better understand how zooxanthellae and their coral hosts successfully acclimatize or adapt to environmental change (e.g. increased temperatures and localized eutrophication). To gain further insight into the physiology of coral symbionts in the Red Sea, we examined the abundance of dominant Symbiodinium types associated with the coral Pocillopora verrucosa, and measured Symbiodinium physiological characteristics (i.e. photosynthetic processes, cell density, pigmentation, and protein composition) along the latitudinal gradient of the Red Sea in summer and winter. Despite the strong environmental gradients from north to south, our results demonstrate that Symbiodinium microadriaticum (type A1) was the predominant species in P. verrucosa along the latitudinal gradient. Furthermore, measured physiological characteristics were found to vary more with prevailing seasonal environmental conditions than with region-specific differences, although the measured environmental parameters displayed much higher spatial than temporal variability. We conclude that our findings might present the result of long-term acclimatization or adaptation of S. microadriaticum to regionally specific conditions within the Red Sea. Of additional note, high nutrients in the South correlated with high zooxanthellae density indicating a compensation for a temperature-driven loss of photosynthetic performance, which may prove promising for the resilience of these corals under increase of temperature increase and eutrophication.
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.
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.
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