Featured research (5)
The frequency and severity of marine heatwaves causing mass mortality events in tropical and temperate coral species increases every year, with serious consequences on the stability and resilience of coral populations. Although recovery and persistence of coral populations after stress events is closely related to adult fitness, as well as larval survival and settlement, much remains unknown about the effects of thermal stress on early life history stages of temperate coral species. In the present study, the reproductive phenology and the effect of increased water temperature (+4 °C and +6 °C above ambient, 20 °C) on larval survival and settlement was evaluated for two of the most representative Mediterranean octocoral species (Eunicella singularis and Corallium rubrum). Our study shows that reproductive behavior is more variable than previously reported and breeding period occurs over a longer period in both species. Thermal stress did not affect the survival of symbiotic E. singularis larvae, but drastically reduced the survival of the non‐symbiotic C. rubrum larvae. Results on larval biomass and caloric consumption suggest that higher mortality rates of C. rubrum exposed to increased temperature were not related to depletion of endogenous energy in larvae. The results also show that settlement rates of E. singularis did not change in response to elevated temperature after 20 days of exposure, but larvae may settle fast and close to their native population at 26 °C (+6 °C). Although previous experimental studies found that adult colonies of both octocoral species are mostly resistant to thermal stress, our results on early life history stages suggest that the persistence and inter‐connectivity of local populations may be severely compromised under continued trends in ocean warming.
Plastic pollution is a threat to marine life with long term impacts to ecosystems and organisms in the sea. In this study, we quantified the presence of microparticles in wild populations of Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) from the Salish Sea, Washington State. Examination under a dissecting microscope revealed 63% of oysters contained microparticles (~1.75 microparticles per oyster) and microfibers were the dominant type of particles. Using Raman microspectroscopy (RMS) and Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (μ-FTIR) we found that only ~2% of these microparticles were synthetic and included polymers such as polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, poly(bisphenol A carbonate), rayon, and polyacrylate. It is important to note that of the 447 microparticles analyzed with RMS, 41% showed fluorescence interference, impeding the determination of their identification. The remaining microparticles were cellulose derivatives, shell fragments, biological or proteinaceous material, salts, minerals, and gypsum. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy equipped with a diamond attenuated total reflectance accessory (ATR-FTIR) showed the presence of sorbitan derivatives in all samples examined (n = 213). These findings provide the first baseline for microplastic and other particles in oysters from the west coast of the United States integrating results from ATR-FTIR, μ-FTIR, and RMS, in addition to visual sorting. These results suggest there is low retention of plastic particles in Pacific oysters from the Salish Sea, but further research is needed to determine the composition of microparticles with fluorescence interference.
Despite widespread climate-driven r ductions of coral cover on tropical reefs, little attention has been paid to the possibility that changes in the geographic distribution of coral recruitment could facilitate beneficial responses to the changing climate through latitudinal range shifts. To address this possibility, we compiled a global database of normalized densities of coral recruits on settlement tiles (corals m −2 ) deployed from 1974 to 2012, and used the data therein to test for latitudinal range shifts in the distribution of coral recruits. In total, 92 studies provided 1253 records of coral recruitment, with 77% originating from settlement tiles immersed for 3−24 mo, herein defined as long-immersion tiles (LITs); the limited temporal and geographic coverage of data from short-immersion tiles (SITs; deployed for <3 mo) made them less suitable for the present purpose. The results from LITs show declines in coral recruitment, on a global scale (i.e. 82% from 1974 to 2012) and throughout the tropics (85% reduction at <20°latitude), and increases in the sub-tropics (78% increase at >20°latitude). These trends indicate that a global decline in coral recruitment has occurred since 1974, and the persistent reduction in the densities of recruits in equatorial latitudes, coupled with increased densities in sub-tropical latitudes, suggests that coral recruitment may be shifting poleward.
The Hawaiian Archipelago is one of the largest and most isolated island chains in the world, and its marine ecosystems are well-studied. Research on Hawaiian mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) began in the 1960s and has intensified during the past decade. In Hawai‘i, rich communities of macroalgae, corals and other invertebrates, and fishes inhabit MCEs and are associated with increased water clarity and decreasing average current strength with depth. Extensive calcified and fleshy macroalgal beds are found both in discrete patches, dense beds, and meadows over both hard and soft substrates. Several species of corals typical of shallow reefs extend to depths of ~60 m. The dominant corals below 60 m are in the genus Leptoseris, which can form extensive coral reefs spanning tens of km². Few octocoral species inhabit shallow reefs and upper MCEs (30–70 m) but are diverse at the deepest range of MCEs (>130 m). Sponges do not represent a major structural component of MCEs. Many species of fishes occur on both shallow reefs and MCEs, but MCEs harbor more endemic species (up to 100% endemism). Several new species of macroalgae, corals and other invertebrates, and fishes have recently been documented. Over 60% of the territorial waters surrounding the archipelago are protected as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; however, no specific protections exist for MCEs. Generally, threats affecting Hawai‘i’s shallow reefs also affect MCEs to varying degrees. MCEs may be more insulated from some threats but more vulnerable than shallow reefs to others (e.g., water clarity).
Mesophotic reef corals remain largely unexplored in terms of the genetic adaptations and physiological mechanisms to acquire, allocate, and use energy for survival and reproduction. In the Hawaiian Archipelago, the Leptoseris species complex form the most spatially extensive mesophotic coral ecosystem known and provide habitat for a unique community. To study how the ecophysiology of Leptoseris species relates to symbiont–host specialization and understand the mechanisms responsible for coral energy acquisition in extreme low light environments, we examined Symbiodinium (endosymbiotic dinoflagellate) photobiological characteristics and the lipids and isotopic signatures from Symbiodinium and coral hosts over a depth‐dependent light gradient (55–7 μmol photons m−2 s−1, 60–132 m). Clear performance differences demonstrate different photoadaptation and photoacclimatization across this genus. Our results also show that flexibility in photoacclimatization depends primarily on Symbiodinium type. Colonies harboring Symbiodinium sp. COI‐2 showed significant increases in photosynthetic pigment content with increasing depth, whereas colonies harboring Symbiodinium spp. COI‐1 and COI‐3 showed variability in pigment composition, yield measurements for photosystem II, as well as size and density of Symbiodinium cells. Despite remarkable differences in photosynthetic adaptive strategies, there were no significant differences among lipids of Leptoseris species with depth. Finally, isotopic signatures of both host and Symbiodinium changed with depth, indicating that coral colonies acquired energy from different sources depending on depth. This study highlights the complexity in physiological adaptations within this symbiosis and the different strategies used by closely related mesophotic species to diversify energy acquisition and to successfully establish and compete in extreme light‐limited environments.