The coral holobiont highlights the dependence of cnidarian animal hosts on their associated microbes
2021, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Voolstra, Christian R., Rädecker, Nils, Weis, Virginia, Cárdenas, Anny, Raina, Jean-Baptiste
Coral reefs face unprecedented threats from anthropogenic environmental change. Climate change, pollution, and overfishing are affecting symbiotic interactions in the coral holobiont, which constitute the structural and functional foundation of reef ecosystems, eventually leading to the breakdown of the symbiosis and/or the onset of disease(s). The resulting dysbiosis of species relationships within the coral holobiont causes coral mortality at a global scale, accompanied by unprecedented loss of coral reef cover. In this chapter, we discuss the diversity of microbes (Symbiodiniaceae, bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi) associated with the coral host and what is known of their respective contribution to holobiont functioning. We highlight how the coral–dinoflagellate symbiosis forms the “engine” of the coral holobiont machinery, and we discuss the complexity of interactions that have shaped the ecological success of corals. We conclude that the coral holobiont is a prime example of how microbial associates shape the biology of their animal hosts and enable them to inhabit and even thrive in otherwise inhospitable environments. Given the current global decline of coral reef ecosystems, it is imperative to better understand the mechanisms governing coral holobiont function and health in order to develop strategies for mitigating the consequences of climate change and local anthropogenic stressors.
In situ eutrophication stimulates dinitrogen fixation, denitrification, and productivity in Red Sea coral reefs
2020-07-09, El-Khaled, Yusuf C., Roth, Florian, Tilstra, Arjen, Rädecker, Nils, Karcher, Denis B., Kürten, Benjamin, Jones, Burton H., Voolstra, Christian R., Wild, Christian
Eutrophication (i.e. the increase of [in-]organic nutrients) may affect the functioning of coral reefs, but knowledge about the effects on nitrogen (N) cycling and its relationship to productivity within benthic reef communities is scarce. Thus, we investigated how in situ manipulated eutrophication impacted productivity along with 2 counteracting N-cycling pathways (dinitrogen [N2]-fixation, denitrification), using a combined acetylene assay. We hypothesised that N2-fixation would decrease and denitrification increase in response to eutrophication. N fluxes and productivity (measured as dark and light oxygen fluxes assessed in incubation experiments) were determined for 3 dominant coral reef functional groups (reef sediments, turf algae, and the scleractinian coral Pocillopora verrucosa) after 8 wk of in situ nutrient enrichment in the central Red Sea. Using slow-release fertiliser, we increased the dissolved inorganic N concentration by up to 7-fold compared to ambient concentrations. Experimental nutrient enrichment stimulated both N2-fixation and denitrification across all functional groups 2- to 7-fold and 2- to 4-fold, respectively. Productivity doubled in reef sediments and remained stable for turf algae and P. verrucosa. Our data therefore suggest that (1) turf algae are major N2-fixers in coral reefs, while denitrification is widespread among all investigated groups; (2) surprisingly, and contrary to our hypothesis, both N2-fixation and denitrification are involved in the response to moderate N eutrophication, and (3) stimulated N2-fixation and denitrification are not directly influenced by productivity. Our findings underline the importance and ubiquity of microbial N cycling in (Red Sea) coral reefs along with its sensitivity to eutrophication.
Ecophysiology of Reef-Building Corals in the Red Sea
2019-05-08, Ziegler, Maren, Roik, Anna, Röthig, Till, Wild, Christian, Rädecker, Nils, Bouwmeester, Jessica, Voolstra, Christian R.
The Red Sea is one of the warmest and most saline seas on the planet. Yet, scleractinian corals have managed to flourish under these distinct conditions supporting one of the largest networks of coral reef ecosystems worldwide. Here, we summarize current knowledge on the ecophysiology of reef-building corals gained from 60 years of research in the Red Sea starting from insights in the 1960s to the most recent studies of the past few years. We provide a brief overview over seasonal dynamics and environmental gradients in the Red Sea that are used to study ecophysiological processes of corals under changing environmental and extreme conditions (i.e., temperature, salinity, nutrient, and light availability). We then focus on how this environmental variability shapes the central processes of coral physiology in the Red Sea covering the topics of photosynthesis, calcification, nutrient cycling, and reproduction. We continue by reporting the first physiological measurements of Red Sea deep-sea corals. Last, we discuss how, through the integration of traditional methods with recent developments in the omics field and model systems, we are now beginning to understand the complexity of processes that contribute to the ecological success of corals under these variable conditions. This synthesis may serve as a basis for future studies that aim to contribute to a better understanding of the impacts of environmental change on coral reefs in the Red Sea and the rest of the world.