skip to main content


Search for: All records

Award ID contains: 1632333

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Abstract Aim

    Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) are unique communities that support a high proportion of depth‐endemic species distinct from shallow‐water coral reefs. However, there is currently little consensus on the boundaries between shallow and mesophotic coral reefs and between upper versus lower MCEs because studies of these communities are often site specific. Here, we examine the ecological evidence for community breaks, defined here as species loss, in fish and benthic taxa between shallow reefs and MCEs globally.

    Location

    Global MCEs.

    Time period

    1973–2017.

    Major taxa studied

    Macrophytes, Porifera, Scleractinia, Hydrozoa, Octocorallia, Antipatharia and teleost fishes.

    Methods

    We used random‐effects models and breakpoint analyses on presence/absence data to identify regions of higher than expected species loss along a depth gradient of 1–69 m, based on a meta‐analysis of 26 studies spanning diverse photoautotrophic and heterotrophic taxa. We then investigated the extent to which points of high faunal turnover can be explained by environmental factors, including light, temperature and nutrient availability.

    Results

    We found evidence for a community break, indicated by a significant loss of shallow‐water taxa, at ~ 60 m across several taxonomically and functionally diverse benthic groups and geographical regions. The breakpoint in benthic composition is best explained by decreasing light, which is correlated with the optical depths between 10 and 1% of surface irradiance. A concurrent shift in the availability of nutrients, both dissolved and particulate organic matter, and a shift from photoautotroph to heterotroph‐dominated assemblages also occurs at ~ 60 m depth.

    Main conclusions

    We found evidence for global community breaks across multiple benthic taxa at ~ 60 m depth, indicative of distinct community transitions between shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems. Changes in the underwater light environment and the availability of trophic resources along the depth gradient are the most parsimonious explanations for the observed patterns.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    While the effects of irradiance on coral productivity are well known, corals along a shallow to mesophotic depth gradient (10–100 m) experience incident irradiances determined by the optical properties of the water column, coral morphology, and reef topography.

    Modeling of productivity (i.e., carbon fixation) using empirical data shows that hemispherical colonies photosynthetically fix significantly greater amounts of carbon across all depths, and throughout the day, compared with plating and branching morphologies. In addition, topography (i.e., substrate angle) further influences the rate of productivity of corals but does not change the hierarchy of coral morphologies relative to productivity.

    The differences in primary productivity for different coral morphologies are not, however, entirely consistent with the known ecological distributions of these coral morphotypes in the mesophotic zone as plating corals often become the dominant morphotype with increasing depth.

    Other colony‐specific features such as skeletal scattering of light, Symbiodiniaceae species, package effect, or tissue thickness contribute to the variability in the ecological distributions of morphotypes over the depth gradient and are captured in the metric known as the minimum quantum requirements.

    Coral morphology is a strong proximate cause for the observed differences in productivity, with secondary effects of reef topography on incident irradiances, and subsequently the community structure of mesophotic corals.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Sponges are important ecological and functional components of coral reefs. Recently, a new hypothesis about the functional ecology of sponges in organic matter recycling pathways, the sponge‐loop hypothesis, in which dissolved and particulate organic matter is taken up by sponges and shunted to higher trophic levels as detritus, has been proposed and demonstrated for shallow (< 30 m) cryptic species. However, support for this hypothesis at mesophotic depths (∼ 30–150 m) is lacking. Here, we examined detritus production, a prerequisite of the sponge loop pathway, in a reciprocal transplant experiment, usingHalisarca caeruleafrom water depths of 10 and 50 m. Detritus production was significantly lower in mesophotic sponges compared to shallow samples ofH. caerulea. Additionally, detritus production rates in transplanted sponges moved in the direction of rates observed for resident conspecifics. The microbiome of these sponge populations was also significantly different between shallow and mesophotic depths, and the microbial communities of the transplanted sponges also shifted in the direction of their new depth in 10 d largely driven by changes inOxyphotobacteria,Acidimicrobiia,Nitrososphaeria,Nitrospira,Deltaproteobacteria, andDadabacteriia. This occurred in an environment where the availability of both dissolved and particulate trophic resources changed significantly across the shallow to mesophotic depth gradient where these sponge populations were found. These results suggest that changes in sponge detritus production are primarily driven by differential quality and quantity of trophic resources, as well as their utilization by the sponge host, and its microbiome, along the shallow to mesophotic depth gradient.

     
    more » « less
  4. Mesophotic coral reef ecosystems (MCEs) are characterized by gradients in irradiance, temperature and trophic resources. As depth increases on Caribbean mesophotic reefs, particulate organic matter increases while dissolved organic matter decreases, and the increase in particulate organic matter is directly related to the increase in sponge abundances and growth rates on MCEs. To further understand the trophic ecology of sponges, changes in microbiome composition and function, stable isotopic composition and proximate biochemical composition of 4 Caribbean reef sponges ( Amphimedon compressa , Agelas tubulata , Plakortis angulospiculatus and Xestospongia muta) were quantified along a shallow to mesophotic depth gradient on Grand Cayman Island. Increases in δ 15 N for all sponges were observed as depth increased, indicating an increasing reliance on heterotrophic food resources. Species-specific changes in symbiotic microbial community composition were also observed as depth increased, and the predicted functional genes associated with nitrogen and carbon cycling showed species-specific changes between depths. Regardless of species-specific changes in microbiome community structure or function, or whether sponges were classified as high microbial or low microbial abundance, sponges increased their consumption of particulate organic matter with increasing depth into the lower mesophotic zone. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
  6. Mesophotic coral reefs, generally defined as deep reefs between 30 and 150 m, are found worldwide and are largely structured by changes in the underwater light field. Additionally, it is increasingly understood that reef-to-reef variability in topography, combined with quantitative and qualitative changes in the underwater light field with increasing depth, significantly influence the observed changes in coral distribution and abundance. Here, we take a modeling approach to examine the effects of the inherent optical properties of the water column on the irradiance that corals are exposed to along a shallow to mesophotic depth gradient. In particular, the roles of reef topography including horizontal, sloping and vertical substrates are quantified, as well as the differences between mounding, plating and branching colony morphologies. Downwelling irradiance and reef topography interact such that for a water mass of similar optical properties, the irradiance reaching the benthos varies significantly with topography (i.e. substrate angle). Coral morphology, however, is also a factor; model results show that isolated hemispherical colonies consistently ‘see’ greater incident irradiances across depths, and throughout the day, compared to plating and branching morphologies. These modeled geometric-based differences in the incident irradiances on different coral morphologies are not, however, consistent with actual depth-dependent distributions of these coral morphotypes, where plating morphologies dominate as you go deeper. Other factors, such as the cost of calcification, arguably contribute to these differences, but irradiance-driven patterns are a strong proximate cause for the observed differences in mesophotic communities on sloping versus vertical reef substrates. 
    more » « less
  7. null (Ed.)
  8. null (Ed.)
  9. There is a critical need to quantify and monitor mesophotic coral reef community structure and function at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Because accessing these habitats is costly in terms of infrastructure and effort, often for a modest return in data, many investigators collect digital imagery using transect techniques from unmanned platforms. Specifically, remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles are used because they operate at deeper depths for extensive periods of time, can carry an array of oceanographic and imaging instruments, and can collect and archive extensive amounts of video and still imagery. However, substrate angle, camera angle, and vehicle position above the benthos creates varying degrees of error in the imagery due to parallax and geometric distortion. Photogrammetry conducted on 2D photographs from uncorrected 3D imagery can over- or under-estimate the percent cover, biomass estimates, and abundance of the benthic groups of interest. Here we illustrate these errors and emphasize the requirement for post-processing of imagery to ensure that these data can be used for valid quantitative ecological descriptions of mesophotic benthic communities in the future. 
    more » « less