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Microbial ecology of coral-dominated reefs in the Federated States of Micronesia

April 22, 2021

Microorganisms are central to the functioning of coral reef ecosystems, but their dynamics are unstudied on most reefs. We examined the microbial ecology of shallow reefs within the Federated States of Micronesia. We surveyed 20 reefs surrounding 7 islands and atolls (Yap, Woleai, Olimarao, Kosrae, Kapingamarangi, Nukuoro, and Pohnpei), spanning 875053 km2. On the reefs, we found consistently higher coral coverage (mean ± SD = 36.9 ± 22.2%; max 77%) compared to macroalgae coverage (15.2 ± 15.5%; max 58%), and low abundances of fish. Reef waters had low inorganic nutrient concentrations and were dominated by Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, and SAR11 bacteria. The richness of bacterial and archaeal communities was significantly related to interactions between island/atoll and depth. High coral coverage on reefs was linked to higher relative abundances of Flavobacteriaceae, Leisingera, Owenweeksia, Vibrio, and the OM27 clade, as well as other heterotrophic bacterial groups, consistent with communities residing in waters near corals and within coral mucus. Microbial community structure at reef depth was significantly correlated with geographic distance, suggesting that island biogeography influences reef microbial communities. Reefs at Kosrae Island, which hosted the highest coral abundance and diversity, were unique compared to other locations; seawater from Kosrae reefs had the lowest organic carbon (59.8-67.9 µM), highest organic nitrogen (4.5-5.3 µM), and harbored consistent microbial communities (>85% similar), which were dominated by heterotrophic cells. This study suggests that the reef-water microbial ecology on Micronesian reefs is influenced by the density and diversity of corals as well as other biogeographical features.

Publication Year 2021
Title Microbial ecology of coral-dominated reefs in the Federated States of Micronesia
DOI 10.3354/ame01961
Authors Amy Apprill, Henry Holm, Alyson E. Santoro, Cynthia Becker, Matthew Neave, Konrad Hughen, Angela Richards Donà, Greta Aeby, Thierry M. Work, Laura Weber, Sean McNally
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Aquatic Microbial Ecology
Index ID 70218471
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center