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  1. Abstract Background Management actions that address local-scale stressors on coral reefs can rapidly improve water quality and reef ecosystem condition. In response to reef managers who need actionable thresholds for coastal runoff and dredging, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental studies that explore the effects of sediment on corals. We identified exposure levels that ‘adversely’ affect corals while accounting for sediment bearing (deposited vs. suspended), coral life-history stage, and species, thus providing empirically based estimates of stressor thresholds on vulnerable coral reefs. Methods We searched online databases and grey literature to obtain a list of potential studies, assess their eligibility, and critically appraise them for validity and risk of bias. Data were extracted from eligible studies and grouped by sediment bearing and coral response to identify thresholds in terms of the lowest exposure levels that induced an adverse physiological and/or lethal effect. Meta-regression estimated the dose–response relationship between exposure level and the magnitude of a coral’s response, with random-effects structures to estimate the proportion of variance explained by factors such as study and coral species. Review findings After critical appraisal of over 15,000 records, our systematic review of corals’ responses to sediment identified 86 studies to be included in meta-analyses (45 studies for deposited sediment and 42 studies for suspended sediment). The lowest sediment exposure levels that caused adverse effects in corals were well below the levels previously described as ‘normal’ on reefs: for deposited sediment, adverse effects occurred as low as 1 mg/cm 2 /day for larvae (limited settlement rates) and 4.9 mg/cm 2 /day for adults (tissue mortality); for suspended sediment, adverse effects occurred as low as 10 mg/L for juveniles (reduced growth rates) and 3.2 mg/L for adults (bleaching and tissue mortality). Corals take at least 10 times longer to experience tissue mortality from exposure to suspended sediment than to comparable concentrations of deposited sediment, though physiological changes manifest 10 times faster in response to suspended sediment than to deposited sediment. Threshold estimates derived from continuous response variables (magnitude of adverse effect) largely matched the lowest-observed adverse-effect levels from a summary of studies, or otherwise helped us to identify research gaps that should be addressed to better quantify the dose–response relationship between sediment exposure and coral health. Conclusions We compiled a global dataset that spans three oceans, over 140 coral species, decades of research, and a range of field- and lab-based approaches. Our review and meta-analysis inform the no-observed and lowest-observed adverse-effect levels (NOAEL, LOAEL) that are used in management consultations by U.S. federal agencies. In the absence of more location- or species-specific data to inform decisions, our results provide the best available information to protect vulnerable reef-building corals from sediment stress. Based on gaps and limitations identified by our review, we make recommendations to improve future studies and recommend future synthesis to disentangle the potentially synergistic effects of multiple coral-reef stressors. 
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  2. Abstract Work on marine biofilms has primarily focused on host-associated habitats for their roles in larval recruitment and disease dynamics; little is known about the factors regulating the composition of reef environmental biofilms. To contrast the roles of succession, benthic communities and nutrients in structuring marine biofilms, we surveyed bacteria communities in biofilms through a six-week succession in aquaria containing macroalgae, coral, or reef sand factorially crossed with three levels of continuous nutrient enrichment. Our findings demonstrate how biofilm successional trajectories diverge from temporal dynamics of the bacterioplankton and how biofilms are structured by the surrounding benthic organisms and nutrient enrichment. We identify a suite of biofilm-associated bacteria linked with the orthogonal influences of corals, algae and nutrients and distinct from the overlying water. Our results provide a comprehensive characterization of marine biofilm successional dynamics and contextualize the impact of widespread changes in reef community composition and nutrient pollution on biofilm community structure. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) influences near-shore coral reef ecosystems worldwide. SGD biogeochemistry is distinct, typically with higher nutrients, lower pH, cooler temperature and lower salinity than receiving waters. SGD can also be a conduit for anthropogenic nutrients and other pollutants. Using Bayesian structural equation modelling, we investigate pathways and feedbacks by which SGD influences coral reef ecosystem metabolism at two Hawai'i sites with distinct aquifer chemistry. The thermal and biogeochemical environment created by SGD changed net ecosystem production (NEP) and net ecosystem calcification (NEC). NEP showed a nonlinear relationship with SGD-enhanced nutrients: high fluxes of moderately enriched SGD (Wailupe low tide) and low fluxes of highly enriched SGD (Kūpikipiki'ō high tide) increased NEP, but high fluxes of highly enriched SGD (Kūpikipiki'ō low tide) decreased NEP, indicating a shift toward microbial respiration. pH fluctuated with NEP, driving changes in the net growth of calcifiers (NEC). SGD enhances biological feedbacks: changes in SGD from land use and climate change will have consequences for calcification of coral reef communities, and thereby shoreline protection. 
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  4. null (Ed.)