skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on March 31, 2023

Title: Biogeography of reef water microbes from within-reef to global scales
Seawater microorganisms play an important role in coral reef ecosystem functioning and can be influenced by biological, chemical, and physical features of reefs. As coral reefs continue to respond to environmental changes, the reef seawater microbiome has been proposed as a conservation tool for monitoring perturbations. However, the spatial variability of reef seawater microbial communities is not well studied, limiting our ability to make generalizable inferences across reefs. In order to better understand how microorganisms are distributed at multiple spatial scales, we examined seawater microbial communities in Florida Reef Tract and US Virgin Islands reef systems using a nested sampling design. On 3 reefs per reef system, we sampled seawater at regular spatial intervals close to the benthos. We assessed the microbial community composition of these waters using ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing. Our analysis revealed that reef water microbial communities varied as a function of reef system and individual reefs, but communities did not differ within reefs and were not significantly influenced by benthic composition. For the reef system and inter-reef differences, abundant microbial taxa were found to be potentially useful indicators of environmental difference due to their high prevalence and variance. We further examined reef water microbial biogeography more » on a global scale using a secondary analysis of 5 studies, which revealed that microbial communities were more distinct with increasing geographic distance. These results suggest that biogeography is a distinguishing feature for reef water microbiomes, and that development of monitoring criteria may necessitate regionally specific sampling and analyses. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1938147
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10342920
Journal Name:
Aquatic Microbial Ecology
Volume:
88
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
81 to 94
ISSN:
0948-3055
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Microorganisms are central to the functioning of coral reef ecosystems, but their dynamics are unstudied on most reefs. We examined the microbial ecology of shallow reefs within the Federated States of Micronesia. We surveyed 20 reefs surrounding 7 islands and atolls (Yap, Woleai, Olimarao, Kosrae, Kapingamarangi, Nukuoro, and Pohnpei), spanning 875053 km 2 . On the reefs, we found consistently higher coral coverage (mean ± SD = 36.9 ± 22.2%; max 77%) compared to macroalgae coverage (15.2 ± 15.5%; max 58%), and low abundances of fish. Reef waters had low inorganic nutrient concentrations and were dominated by Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, and SAR11 bacteria. The richness of bacterial and archaeal communities was significantly related to interactions between island/atoll and depth. High coral coverage on reefs was linked to higher relative abundances of Flavobacteriaceae, Leisingera, Owenweeksia, Vibrio, and the OM27 clade, as well as other heterotrophic bacterial groups, consistent with communities residing in waters near corals and within coral mucus. Microbial community structure at reef depth was significantly correlated with geographic distance, suggesting that island biogeography influences reef microbial communities. Reefs at Kosrae Island, which hosted the highest coral abundance and diversity, were unique compared to other locations; seawater from Kosrae reefs hadmore »the lowest organic carbon (59.8-67.9 µM), highest organic nitrogen (4.5-5.3 µM), and harbored consistent microbial communities (>85% similar), which were dominated by heterotrophic cells. This study suggests that the reef-water microbial ecology on Micronesian reefs is influenced by the density and diversity of corals as well as other biogeographical features.« less
  2. Scleractinian corals are bathed in a sea of planktonic and particle-associated microorganisms. The metabolic products of corals influence the growth and composition of microorganisms, but interactions between corals and seawater microorganisms are underexplored. We conducted a field-based survey to compare the biomass, diversity, composition, and functional capacity of microorganisms in small-volume seawater samples collected adjacent to five coral species with seawater collected > 1 m away from the reef substrate on the same reefs. Seawater collected close to corals generally harbored copiotrophic-type bacteria and its bacterial and archaeal composition was influenced by coral species as well as the local reef environment. Trends in picoplankton abundances were variable and either increased or decreased away from coral colonies based on coral species and picoplankton functional group. Genes characteristic of surface-attached and potentially virulent microbial lifestyles were enriched in near coral seawater compared to reef seawater. There was a prominent association between the coral Porites astreoides and the coral symbiont Endozoicomonas, suggesting recruitment and/or shedding of these cells into the surrounding seawater. This evidence extends our understanding of potential species-specific and reef site-influenced microbial interactions that occur between corals and microorganisms within this near-coral seawater environment that we propose to call the “coralmore »ecosphere.” Microbial interactions that occur within the coral ecosphere could influence recruitment of coral-associated microorganisms and facilitate the transfer of coral metabolites into the microbial food web, thus fostering reef biogeochemical cycling and a linkage between corals and the water column.« less
  3. Spatial and temporal carbonate chemistry variability on coral reefs is influenced by a combination of seawater hydrodynamics, geomorphology, and biogeochemical processes, though their relative influence varies by site. It is often assumed that the water column above most reefs is well-mixed with small to no gradients outside of the benthic boundary layer. However, few studies to date have explored the processes and properties controlling these multi-dimensional gradients. Here, we investigated the lateral, vertical, and temporal variability of seawater carbonate chemistry on a Bermudan rim reef using a combination of spatial seawater chemistry surveys and autonomous in situ sensors. Instruments were deployed at Hog Reef measuring current flow, seawater temperature, salinity, pH T , p CO 2 , dissolved oxygen (DO), and total alkalinity (TA) on the benthos, and temperature, salinity, DO, and p CO 2 at the surface. Water samples from spatial surveys were collected from surface and bottom depths at 13 stations covering ∼3 km 2 across 4 days. High frequency temporal variability in carbonate chemistry was driven by a combination of diel light and mixed semi-diurnal tidal cycles on the reef. Daytime gradients in DO between the surface and the benthos suggested significant water column production contributing tomore »distinct diel trends in pH T , p CO 2 , and DO, but not TA. We hypothesize these differences reflect the differential effect of biogeochemical processes important in both the water column and benthos (organic carbon production/respiration) vs. processes mainly occurring on the benthos (calcium carbonate production/dissolution). Locally at Hog Reef, the relative magnitude of the diel variability of organic carbon production/respiration was 1.4–4.6 times larger than that of calcium carbonate production/dissolution, though estimates of net organic carbon production and calcification based on inshore-offshore chemical gradients revealed net heterotrophy (−118 ± 51 mmol m –2 day –1 ) and net calcification (150 ± 37 mmol CaCO 3 m –2 day –1 ). These results reflect the important roles of time and space in assessing reef biogeochemical processes. The spatial variability in carbonate chemistry parameters was larger laterally than vertically and was generally observed in conjunction with depth gradients, but varied between sampling events, depending on time of day and modifications due to current flow.« less
  4. In coral reefs and adjacent seagrass meadow and mangrove environments, short temporal scales (i.e. tidal, diurnal) may have important influences on ecosystem processes and community structure, but these scales are rarely investigated. This study examines how tidal and diurnal forcings influence pelagic microorganisms and nutrient dynamics in 3 important and adjacent coastal biomes: mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass meadows. We sampled for microbial ( Bacteria and Archaea ) community composition, cell abundances and environmental parameters at 9 coastal sites on St. John, US Virgin Islands that spanned 4 km in distance (4 coral reefs, 2 seagrass meadows and 3 mangrove locations within 2 larger bays). Eight samplings occurred over a 48 h period, capturing day and night microbial dynamics over 2 tidal cycles. The seagrass and reef biomes exhibited relatively consistent environmental conditions and microbial community structure but were dominated by shifts in picocyanobacterial abundances that were most likely attributed to diel dynamics. In contrast, mangrove ecosystems exhibited substantial daily shifts in environmental parameters, heterotrophic cell abundances and microbial community structure that were consistent with the tidal cycle. Differential abundance analysis of mangrove-associated microorganisms revealed enrichment of pelagic oligotrophic taxa during high tide and enrichment of putative sediment-associated microbes duringmore »low tide. Our study underpins the importance of tidal and diurnal time scales in structuring coastal microbial and nutrient dynamics, with diel and tidal cycles contributing to a highly dynamic microbial environment in mangroves, and time of day likely contributing to microbial dynamics in seagrass and reef biomes.« less
  5. Coral reef ecosystems are incredibly diverse marine biomes that rely on nutrient cycling by microorganisms to sustain high productivity in generally oligotrophic regions of the ocean. Understanding the composition of extracellular reef metabolites in seawater, the small organic molecules that serve as the currency for microorganisms, may provide insight into benthic-pelagic coupling as well as the complexity of nutrient cycling in coral reef ecosystems. Jardines de la Reina (JR), Cuba is an ideal environment to examine extracellular metabolites across protected and high-quality reefs. Here, we used liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to quantify specific known metabolites of interest (targeted metabolomics approach) and to survey trends in metabolite feature composition (untargeted metabolomics approach) from surface and reef depth (6 – 14 m) seawater overlying nine forereef sites in JR. We found that untargeted metabolite feature composition was surprisingly similar between reef depth and surface seawater, corresponding with other biogeochemical and physicochemical measurements and suggesting that environmental conditions were largely homogenous across forereefs within JR. Additionally, we quantified 32 of 53 detected metabolites using the targeted approach, including amino acids, nucleosides, vitamins, and other metabolic intermediates. Two of the quantified metabolites, riboflavin and xanthosine, displayed interesting trends by depth. Riboflavin concentrations weremore »higher in reef depth compared to surface seawater, suggesting that riboflavin may be produced by reef organisms at depth and degraded in the surface through photochemical oxidation. Xanthosine concentrations were significantly higher in surface reef seawater. 5′-methylthioadenosine (MTA) concentrations increased significantly within the central region of the archipelago, displaying biogeographic patterns that warrant further investigation. Here we lay the groundwork for future investigations of variations in metabolite composition across reefs, sources and sinks of reef metabolites, and changes in metabolites over environmental, temporal, and reef health gradients.« less