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  1. Abstract

    Perturbations in natural systems generally are the combination of multiple interactions among individual stressors. However, methods to interpret the effects of interacting stressors remain challenging and are biased to identifying synergies which are prioritized in conservation. Therefore we conducted a multiple stressor experiment (no stress, single, double, triple) on the coralPocillopora meandrinato evaluate how its microbiome changes compositionally with increasing levels of perturbation. We found that effects of nutrient enrichment, simulated predation, and increased temperature are antagonistic, rather than synergistic or additive, for a variety of microbial community diversity measures. Importantly, high temperature and scarring alone had the greatest effect on changing microbial community composition and diversity. Using differential abundance analysis, we found that the main effects of stressors increased the abundance of opportunistic taxa, and two-way interactions among stressors acted antagonistically on this increase, while three-way interactions acted synergistically. These data suggest that: (1) multiple statistical analyses should be conducted for a complete assessment of microbial community dynamics, (2) for some statistical metrics multiple stressors do not necessarily increase the disruption of microbiomes over single stressors in this coral species, and (3) the observed stressor-induced community dysbiosis is characterized by a proliferation of opportunists rather than a depletion of a proposed coral symbiont of the genusEndozoicomonas.

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  2. Abstract

    Coral bleaching is the single largest global threat to coral reefs worldwide. Integrating the diverse body of work on coral bleaching is critical to understanding and combating this global problem. Yet investigating the drivers, patterns, and processes of coral bleaching poses a major challenge. A recent review of published experiments revealed a wide range of experimental variables used across studies. Such a wide range of approaches enhances discovery, but without full transparency in the experimental and analytical methods used, can also make comparisons among studies challenging. To increase comparability but not stifle innovation, we propose a common framework for coral bleaching experiments that includes consideration of coral provenance, experimental conditions, and husbandry. For example, reporting the number of genets used, collection site conditions, the experimental temperature offset(s) from the maximum monthly mean (MMM) of the collection site, experimental light conditions, flow, and the feeding regime will greatly facilitate comparability across studies. Similarly, quantifying common response variables of endosymbiont (Symbiodiniaceae) and holobiont phenotypes (i.e., color, chlorophyll, endosymbiont cell density, mortality, and skeletal growth) could further facilitate cross‐study comparisons. While no single bleaching experiment can provide the data necessary to determine global coral responses of all corals to current and future ocean warming, linking studies through a common framework as outlined here, would help increase comparability among experiments, facilitate synthetic insights into the causes and underlying mechanisms of coral bleaching, and reveal unique bleaching responses among genets, species, and regions. Such a collaborative framework that fosters transparency in methods used would strengthen comparisons among studies that can help inform coral reef management and facilitate conservation strategies to mitigate coral bleaching worldwide.

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  3. Abstract

    Coral reefs are declining globally as climate change and local water quality press environmental conditions beyond the physiological tolerances of holobionts—the collective of the host and its microbial symbionts. To assess the relationship between symbiont composition and holobiont stress tolerance, community diversity metrics were quantified for dinoflagellate endosymbionts (Family: Symbiodiniaceae) from eightAcropora milleporagenets that thrived under or responded poorly to various stressors. These eight selected genets represent the upper and lower tails of the response distribution of 40 coral genets that were exposed to four stress treatments (and control conditions) in a 10‐day experiment. Specifically, four ‘best performer’ coral genets were analyzed at the end of the experiment because they survived high temperature, highpCO2, bacterial exposure, or combined stressors, whereas four ‘worst performer’ genets were characterized because they experienced substantial mortality under these stressors. At the end of the experiment, seven of eight coral genets mainly hostedCladocopiumsymbionts, whereas the eighth genet was dominated by bothCladocopiumandDurusdiniumsymbionts. Symbiodiniaceae alpha and beta diversity were higher in worst performing genets than in best performing genets. Symbiont communities in worst performers also differed more after stress exposure relative to their controls (based on normalized proportional differences in beta diversity), than did best performers. A generalized joint attribute model estimated the influence of host genet and treatment on Symbiodiniaceae community composition and identified strong associations among particular symbionts and host genet performance, as well as weaker associations with treatment. Although dominant symbiont physiology and function contribute to host performance, these findings emphasize the importance of symbiont community diversity and stochasticity as components of host performance. Our findings also suggest that symbiont community diversity metrics may function as indicators of resilience and have potential applications in diverse disciplines from climate change adaptation to agriculture and medicine.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Diseases of tropical reef organisms is an intensive area of study, but despite significant advances in methodology and the global knowledge base, identifying the proximate causes of disease outbreaks remains difficult. The dynamics of infectious wildlife diseases are known to be influenced by shifting interactions among the host, pathogen, and other members of the microbiome, and a collective body of work clearly demonstrates that this is also the case for the main foundation species on reefs, corals. Yet, among wildlife, outbreaks of coral diseases stand out as being driven largely by a changing environment. These outbreaks contributed not only to significant losses of coral species but also to whole ecosystem regime shifts. Here we suggest that to better decipher the disease dynamics of corals, we must integrate more holistic and modern paradigms that consider multiple and variable interactions among the three major players in epizootics: the host, its associated microbiome, and the environment. In this perspective, we discuss how expanding the pathogen component of the classic host-pathogen-environment disease triad to incorporate shifts in the microbiome leading to dysbiosis provides a better model for understanding coral disease dynamics. We outline and discuss issues arising when evaluating each component of this trio and make suggestions for bridging gaps between them. We further suggest that to best tackle these challenges, researchers must adjust standard paradigms, like the classic one pathogen-one disease model, that, to date, have been ineffectual at uncovering many of the emergent properties of coral reef disease dynamics. Lastly, we make recommendations for ways forward in the fields of marine disease ecology and the future of coral reef conservation and restoration given these observations. 
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