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Creators/Authors contains: "Munsterman, Katrina S."

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  1. Abstract

    The relative importance of evolutionary history and ecology for traits that drive ecosystem processes is poorly understood. Consumers are essential drivers of nutrient cycling on coral reefs, and thus ecosystem productivity. We use nine consumer “chemical traits” associated with nutrient cycling, collected from 1,572 individual coral reef fishes (178 species spanning 41 families) in two biogeographic regions, the Caribbean and Polynesia, to quantify the relative importance of phylogenetic history and ecological context as drivers of chemical trait variation on coral reefs. We find: (1) phylogenetic relatedness is the best predictor of all chemical traits, substantially outweighing the importance of ecological factors thought to be key drivers of these traits, (2) phylogenetic conservatism in chemical traits is greater in the Caribbean than Polynesia, where our data suggests that ecological forces have a greater influence on chemical trait variation, and (3) differences in chemical traits between regions can be explained by differences in nutrient limitation associated with the geologic context of our study locations. Our study provides multiple lines of evidence that phylogeny is a critical determinant of contemporary nutrient dynamics on coral reefs. More broadly our findings highlight the utility of evolutionary history to improve prediction in ecosystem ecology.

  2. 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 Ctenochaetus striatus and elevated sea surface temperatures on microbiomes associated with the reef-building coral Porites lobata . Our results showed that regardless of temperature, exposure of P. lobata to C. striatus 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., Vibrio vulnificus , Photobacterium rosenbergii ).more »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 P. lobata . 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.« less
  3. Climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of temperature anomalies that cause coral bleaching, leading to widespread mortality of stony corals that can fundamentally alter reef structure and function. However, bleaching often is spatially variable for a given heat stress event, and drivers of this heterogeneity are not well resolved. While small-scale experiments have shown that excess nitrogen can increase the susceptibility of a coral colony to bleaching, we lack evidence that heterogeneity in nitrogen pollution can shape spatial patterns of coral bleaching across a seascape. Using island-wide surveys of coral bleaching and nitrogen availability within a Bayesian hierarchical modeling framework, we tested the hypothesis that excess nitrogen interacts with temperature anomalies to alter coral bleaching for the two dominant genera of branching corals in Moorea, French Polynesia. For both coral genera,PocilloporaandAcropora, heat stress primarily drove bleaching prevalence (i.e., the proportion of colonies on a reef that bleached). In contrast, the severity of bleaching (i.e., the proportion of an individual colony that bleached) was positively associated with both heat stress and nitrogen availability for both genera. Importantly, nitrogen interacted with heat stress to increase bleaching severity up to twofold when nitrogen was high and heat stress was relatively low.more »Our finding that excess nitrogen can trigger severe bleaching even under relatively low heat stress implies that mitigating nutrient pollution may enhance the resilience of coral communities in the face of mounting stresses from global climate change.

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