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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Coral-associated bacteria play an increasingly recognized part in coral health. We investigated the effect of local anthropogenic impacts on coral microbial communities on reefs near Jeddah, the largest city on the Saudi Arabian coast of the central Red Sea. We analyzed the bacterial community structure of water and corals (Pocillopora verrucosa and Acropora hemprichii) at sites that were relatively unimpacted, exposed to sedimentation & local sewage, or in the discharge area of municipal wastewaters. Coral microbial communities were significantly different at impacted sites: in both corals the main symbiotic taxon decreased in abundance. In contrast, opportunistic bacterial families, such as e.g. Vibrionaceae and Rhodobacteraceae, were more abundant in corals at impacted sites. In conclusion, microbial community response revealed a measurable footprint of anthropogenic impacts to coral ecosystems close to Jeddah, even though the corals appeared visually healthy.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 2
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Despite the importance of deep-sea corals, our current understanding of their ecology and evolution is limited due to difficulties in sampling and studying deep-sea environments. Moreover, a recent re-evaluation of habitat limitations has been suggested after characterization of deep-sea corals in the Red Sea, where they live at temperatures of above 20 °C at low oxygen concentrations. To gain further insight into the biology of deep-sea corals, we produced reference transcriptomes and studied gene expression of three deep-sea coral species from the Red Sea, i.e. Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. Our analyses suggest that deep-sea coral employ mitochondrial hypometabolism and anaerobic glycolysis to manage low oxygen conditions present in the Red Sea. Notably, we found expression of genes related to surface cilia motion that presumably enhance small particle transport rates in the oligotrophic deep-sea environment. This is the first study to characterize transcriptomes and in situ gene expression for deep-sea corals. Our work offers several mechanisms by which deep-sea corals might cope with the distinct environmental conditions present in the Red Sea As such, our data provide direction for future research and further insight to organismal response of deep-sea coral to environmental change and ocean warming.
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  • 3
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Coral reefs in the central Red Sea are sparsely studied and in situ data on physico-chemical and key biotic variables that provide an important comparative baseline are missing. To address this gap, we simultaneously monitored three reefs along a cross-shelf gradient for an entire year over four seasons, collecting data on currents, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen (DO), chlorophyll-a, turbidity, inorganic nutrients, sedimentation, bacterial communities of reef water, and bacterial and algal composition of epilithic biofilms. Summer temperature (29–33°C) and salinity (39 PSU) exceeded average global maxima for coral reefs, whereas DO concentration was low (2–4 mg L-1). While temperature and salinity differences were most pronounced between seasons, DO, chlorophyll-a, turbidity, and sedimentation varied most between reefs. Similarly, biotic communities were highly dynamic between reefs and seasons. Differences in bacterial biofilms were driven by four abundant families: Rhodobacteraceae, Flavobacteriaceae, Flammeovirgaceae, and Pseudanabaenaceae. In algal biofilms, green crusts, brown crusts, and crustose coralline algae were most abundant and accounted for most of the variability of the communities. Higher bacterial diversity of biofilms coincided with increased algal cover during spring and summer. By employing multivariate matching, we identified temperature, salinity, DO, and chlorophyll-a as the main contributing physico-chemical drivers of biotic community structures. These parameters are forecast to change most with the progression of ocean warming and increased nutrient input, which suggests an effect on the recruitment of Red Sea benthic communities as a result of climate change and anthropogenic influence. In conclusion, our study provides insight into coral reef functioning in the Red Sea and a comparative baseline to support coral reef studies in the region.
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  • 4
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Microbes associated with deep-sea corals remain poorly studied. The lack of symbiotic algae suggests that associated microbes may play a fundamental role in maintaining a viable coral host via acquisition and recycling of nutrients. Here we employed 16 S rRNA gene sequencing to study bacterial communities of three deep-sea scleractinian corals from the Red Sea, Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. We found diverse, species-specific microbiomes, distinct from the surrounding seawater. Microbiomes were comprised of few abundant bacteria, which constituted the majority of sequences (up to 58% depending on the coral species). In addition, we found a high diversity of rare bacteria (taxa at 〈1% abundance comprised 〉90% of all bacteria). Interestingly, we identified anaerobic bacteria, potentially providing metabolic functions at low oxygen conditions, as well as bacteria harboring the potential to degrade crude oil components. Considering the presence of oil and gas fields in the Red Sea, these bacteria may unlock this carbon source for the coral host. In conclusion, the prevailing environmental conditions of the deep Red Sea (〉20 °C, 〈2 mg oxygen L−1) may require distinct functional adaptations, and our data suggest that bacterial communities may contribute to coral functioning in this challenging environment.
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  • 5
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: The structural framework provided by corals is crucial for reef ecosystem function and services, but high seawater temperatures can be detrimental to the calcification capacity of reef-building organisms. The Red Sea is very warm, but total alkalinity (TA) is naturally high and beneficial for reef accretion. To date, we know little about how such detrimental and beneficial abiotic factors affect each other and the balance between calcification and erosion on Red Sea coral reefs, i.e., overall reef growth, in this unique ocean basin. To provide estimates of present-day reef growth dynamics in the central Red Sea, we measured two metrics of reef growth, i.e., in situ net-accretion/-erosion rates (Gnet) determined by deployment of limestone blocks and ecosystem-scale carbonate budgets (Gbudget), along a cross-shelf gradient (25km, encompassing nearshore, midshore, and offshore reefs). Along this gradient, we assessed multiple abiotic (i.e., temperature, salinity, diurnal pH fluctuation, inorganic nutrients, and TA) and biotic (i.e., calcifier and epilithic bioeroder communities) variables. Both reef growth metrics revealed similar patterns from nearshore to offshore: net-erosive, neutral, and net-accretion states. The average cross-shelf Gbudget was 0.66kg CaCO3m−2yr−1, with the highest budget of 2.44kg CaCO3m−2yr−1 measured in the offshore reef. These data are comparable to the contemporary Gbudgets from the western Atlantic and Indian oceans, but lie well below "optimal reef production" (5–10kg CaCO3m−2yr−1) and below maxima recently recorded in remote high coral cover reef sites. However, the erosive forces observed in the Red Sea nearshore reef contributed less than observed elsewhere. A higher TA accompanied reef growth across the shelf gradient, whereas stronger diurnal pH fluctuations were associated with negative carbonate budgets. Noteworthy for this oligotrophic region was the positive effect of phosphate, which is a central micronutrient for reef building corals. While parrotfish contributed substantially to bioerosion, our dataset also highlights coralline algae as important local reef builders. Altogether, our study establishes a baseline for reef growth in the central Red Sea that should be useful in assessing trajectories of reef growth capacity under current and future ocean scenarios.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 6
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    Springer
    In:  In: Oceanographic and Biological Aspects of the Red Sea. , ed. by Rasul, N. M. A. and Stewart, I. C. F. Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 401-418. ISBN 978-3-319-99416-1
    Publication Date: 2018-12-14
    Description: Coral reefs in the Red Sea belong to the most diverse and productive reef ecosystems worldwide, although they are exposed to strong seasonal variability, high temperature, and high salinity. These factors are considered stressful for coral reef biota and challenge reef growth in other oceans, but coral reefs in the Red Sea thrive despite these challenges. In the central Red Sea high temperatures, high salinities, and low dissolved oxygen on the one hand reflect conditions that are predicted for ‘future oceans’ under global warming. On the other hand, alkalinity and other carbonate chemistry parameters are considered favourable for coral growth. In coral reefs of the central Red Sea, temperature and salinity follow a seasonal cycle, while chlorophyll and inorganic nutrients mostly vary spatially, and dissolved oxygen and pH fluctuate on the scale of hours to days. Within these strong environmental gradients micro- and macroscopic reef communities are dynamic and demonstrate plasticity and acclimatisation potential. Epilithic biofilm communities of bacteria and algae, crucial for the recruitment of reef-builders, undergo seasonal community shifts that are mainly driven by changes in temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. These variables are predicted to change with the progression of global environmental change and suggest an immediate effect of climate change on the microbial community composition of biofilms. Corals are so-called holobionts and associate with a variety of microbial organisms that fulfill important functions in coral health and productivity. For instance, coral-associated bacterial communities are more specific and less diverse than those of marine biofilms, and in many coral species in the central Red Sea they are dominated by bacteria from the genus Endozoicomonas. Generally, coral microbiomes align with ecological differences between reef sites. They are similar at sites where these corals are abundant and successful. Coral microbiomes reveal a measurable footprint of anthropogenic influence at polluted sites. Coral-associated communities of endosymbiotic dinoflagellates in central Red Sea corals are dominated by Symbiodinium from clade C. Some corals harbour the same specific symbiont with a high physiological plasticity throughout their distribution range, while others maintain a more flexible association with varying symbionts of high physiological specificity over depths, seasons, or reef locations. The coral-Symbiodinium endosymbiosis drives calcification of the coral skeleton, which is a key process that provides maintenance and formation of the reef framework. Calcification rates and reef growth are not higher than in other coral reef regions, despite the beneficial carbonate chemistry in the central Red Sea. This may be related to the comparatively high temperatures, as indicated by reduced summer calcification and long-term slowing of growth rates that correlate with ocean warming trends. Indeed, thermal limits of abundant coral species in the central Red Sea may have been exceeded, as evidenced by repeated mass bleaching events during previous years. Recent comprehensive baseline data from central Red Sea reefs allow for insight into coral reef functioning and for quantification of the impacts of environmental change in the region.
    Type: Book chapter , NonPeerReviewed
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  • 7
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Microbes associated with deep-sea corals remain poorly studied. The lack of symbiotic algae suggests that associated microbes may play a fundamental role in maintaining a viable coral host via acquisition and recycling of nutrients. Here we employed 16 S rRNA gene sequencing to study bacterial communities of three deep-sea scleractinian corals from the Red Sea, Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. We found diverse, species-specific microbiomes, distinct from the surrounding seawater. Microbiomes were comprised of few abundant bacteria, which constituted the majority of sequences (up to 58% depending on the coral species). In addition, we found a high diversity of rare bacteria (taxa at 〈1% abundance comprised 〉90% of all bacteria). Interestingly, we identified anaerobic bacteria, potentially providing metabolic functions at low oxygen conditions, as well as bacteria harboring the potential to degrade crude oil components. Considering the presence of oil and gas fields in the Red Sea, these bacteria may unlock this carbon source for the coral host. In conclusion, the prevailing environmental conditions of the deep Red Sea (〉20 °C, 〈2 mg oxygen L−1) may require distinct functional adaptations, and our data suggest that bacterial communities may contribute to coral functioning in this challenging environment.
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  • 8
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Scleractinian corals are assumed to be stenohaline osmoconformers, although they are frequently subjected to variations in seawater salinity due to precipitation, freshwater run-off and other processes. Observed responses to altered salinity levels include differences in photosynthetic performance, respiration and increased bleaching and mortality of the coral host and its algal symbiont, but a study looking at bacterial community changes is lacking. Here, we exposed the coral Fungia granulosa to strongly increased salinity levels in short- and long-term experiments to disentangle temporal and compartment effects of the coral holobiont (i.e. coral host, symbiotic algae and associated bacteria). Our results show a significant reduction in calcification and photosynthesis, but a stable microbiome after short-term exposure to high-salinity levels. By comparison, long-term exposure yielded unchanged photosynthesis levels and visually healthy coral colonies indicating long-term acclimation to high-salinity levels that were accompanied by a major coral microbiome restructuring. Importantly, a bacterium in the family Rhodobacteraceae was succeeded by Pseudomonas veronii as the numerically most abundant taxon. Further, taxonomy-based functional profiling indicates a shift in the bacterial community towards increased osmolyte production, sulphur oxidation and nitrogen fixation. Our study highlights that bacterial community composition in corals can change within days to weeks under altered environmental conditions, where shifts in the microbiome may enable adjustment of the coral to a more advantageous holobiont composition.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 9
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Despite the importance of deep-sea corals, our current understanding of their ecology and evolution is limited due to difficulties in sampling and studying deep-sea environments. Moreover, a recent re-evaluation of habitat limitations has been suggested after characterization of deep-sea corals in the Red Sea, where they live at temperatures of above 20 °C at low oxygen concentrations. To gain further insight into the biology of deep-sea corals, we produced reference transcriptomes and studied gene expression of three deep-sea coral species from the Red Sea, i.e. Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. Our analyses suggest that deep-sea coral employ mitochondrial hypometabolism and anaerobic glycolysis to manage low oxygen conditions present in the Red Sea. Notably, we found expression of genes related to surface cilia motion that presumably enhance small particle transport rates in the oligotrophic deep-sea environment. This is the first study to characterize transcriptomes and in situ gene expression for deep-sea corals. Our work offers several mechanisms by which deep-sea corals might cope with the distinct environmental conditions present in the Red Sea As such, our data provide direction for future research and further insight to organismal response of deep-sea coral to environmental change and ocean warming.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 10
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Coral bleaching continues to be one of the most devastating and immediate impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems worldwide. In 2015, a major bleaching event was declared as the “3rd global coral bleaching event” by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, impacting a large number of reefs in every major ocean. The Red Sea was no exception, and we present herein in situ observations of the status of coral reefs in the central Saudi Arabian Red Sea from September 2015, following extended periods of high temperatures reaching upwards of 32.5C in our study area. We examined eleven reefs using line-intercept transects at three different depths, including all reefs that were surveyed during a previous bleaching event in 2010. Bleaching was most prevalent on inshore reefs (55.6% ± 14.6% of live coral cover exhibited bleaching) and on shallower transects (41% ± 10.2% of live corals surveyed at 5m depth) within reefs. Similar taxonomic groups (e.g., Agariciidae) were affected in 2015 and in 2010. Most interestingly, Acropora and Porites had similar bleaching rates (~30% each) and similar relative coral cover (~7% each) across all reefs in 2015. Coral genera with the highest levels of bleaching (〉60%) were also among the rarest (〈1% of coral cover) in 2015. While this bodes well for the relative retention of coral cover, it may ultimately lead to decreased species richness, often considered an important component of a healthy coral reef. The resultant long-term changes in these coral reef communities remain to be seen.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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