Camp, E.F., Nitschke, M.R., Rodolfo-Metalpa, R., Houlbreque, F., Gardner, S.G., Smith, D.J., Zampighi, M. & Suggett, D.J. 2017, 'Reef-building corals thrive within hot-acidified and deoxygenated waters.', Scientific reports, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 2434-2434.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Coral reefs are deteriorating under climate change as oceans continue to warm and acidify and thermal anomalies grow in frequency and intensity. In vitro experiments are widely used to forecast reef-building coral health into the future, but often fail to account for the complex ecological and biogeochemical interactions that govern reefs. Consequently, observations from coral communities under naturally occurring extremes have become central for improved predictions of future reef form and function. Here, we present a semi-enclosed lagoon system in New Caledonia characterised by diel fluctuations of hot-deoxygenated water coupled with tidally driven persistently low pH, relative to neighbouring reefs. Coral communities within the lagoon system exhibited high richness (number of species=20) and cover (24-35% across lagoon sites). Calcification rates for key species (Acropora formosa, Acropora pulchra, Coelastrea aspera and Porites lutea) for populations from the lagoon were equivalent to, or reduced by ca. 30-40% compared to those from the reef. Enhanced coral respiration, alongside high particulate organic content of the lagoon sediment, suggests acclimatisation to this trio of temperature, oxygen and pH changes through heterotrophic plasticity. This semi-enclosed lagoon therefore provides a novel system to understand coral acclimatisation to complex climatic scenarios and may serve as a reservoir of coral populations already resistant to extreme environmental conditions.
Klein, S.G., Pitt, K.A., Nitschke, M.R., Goyen, S., Welsh, D.T., Suggett, D.J. & Carroll, A.R. 2017, 'Symbiodinium mitigate the combined effects of hypoxia and acidification on a noncalcifying cnidarian.', Global Change Biology, vol. 23, no. 9, pp. 3690-3703.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Anthropogenic nutrient inputs enhance microbial respiration within many coastal ecosystems, driving concurrent hypoxia and acidification. During photosynthesis, Symbiodinium spp., the microalgal endosymbionts of cnidarians and other marine phyla, produce O2 and assimilate CO2 and thus potentially mitigate the exposure of the host to these stresses. However, such a role for Symbiodinium remains untested for noncalcifying cnidarians. We therefore contrasted the fitness of symbiotic and aposymbiotic polyps of a model host jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.) under reduced O2 (~2.09 mg/L) and pH (~ 7.63) scenarios in a full-factorial experiment. Host fitness was characterized as asexual reproduction and their ability to regulate internal pH and Symbiodinium performance characterized by maximum photochemical efficiency, chla content and cell density. Acidification alone resulted in 58% more asexual reproduction of symbiotic polyps than aposymbiotic polyps (and enhanced Symbiodinium cell density) suggesting Cassiopea sp. fitness was enhanced by CO2 -stimulated Symbiodinium photosynthetic activity. Indeed, greater CO2 drawdown (elevated pH) was observed within host tissues of symbiotic polyps under acidification regardless of O2 conditions. Hypoxia alone produced 22% fewer polyps than ambient conditions regardless of acidification and symbiont status, suggesting Symbiodinium photosynthetic activity did not mitigate its effects. Combined hypoxia and acidification, however, produced similar numbers of symbiotic polyps compared with aposymbiotic kept under ambient conditions, demonstrating that the presence of Symbiodinium was key for mitigating the combined effects of hypoxia and acidification on asexual reproduction. We hypothesize that this mitigation occurred because of reduced photorespiration under elevated CO2 conditions where increased net O2 production ameliorates oxygen debt. We show that Symbiodinium play an important role in facilitating enhanced fitness of Cassiopea sp. ...
Levin, R.A., Suggett, D.J., Nitschke, M.R., van Oppen, M.J.H. & Steinberg, P.D. 2017, 'Expanding the Symbiodinium (Dinophyceae, Suessiales) Toolkit Through Protoplast Technology.', The Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, vol. 64, no. 5, pp. 588-597.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Dinoflagellates within the genus Symbiodinium are photosymbionts of many tropical reef invertebrates, including corals, making them central to the health of coral reefs. Symbiodinium have therefore gained significant research attention, though studies have been constrained by technical limitations. In particular, the generation of viable cells with their cell walls removed (termed protoplasts) has enabled a wide range of experimental techniques for bacteria, fungi, plants, and algae such as ultrastructure studies, virus infection studies, patch clamping, genetic transformation, and protoplast fusion. However, previous studies have struggled to remove the cell walls from armored dinoflagellates, potentially due to the internal placement of their cell walls. Here, we produce the first Symbiodinium protoplasts from three genetically and physiologically distinct strains via incubation with cellulase and osmotic agents. Digestion of the cell walls was verified by a lack of Calcofluor White fluorescence signal and by cell swelling in hypotonic culture medium. Fused protoplasts were also observed, motivating future investigation into intra- and inter-specific somatic hybridization of Symbiodinium. Following digestion and transfer to regeneration medium, protoplasts remained photosynthetically active, regrew cell walls, regained motility, and entered exponential growth. Generation of Symbiodinium protoplasts opens exciting, new avenues for researching these crucial symbiotic dinoflagellates, including genetic modification.
Lohr, K.E., Smith, D.J., Suggett, D.J., Nitschke, M.R., Dumbrell, A.J., Woodcock, S. & Camp, E.F. 2017, 'Coral Community Structure and Recruitment in Seagrass Meadows', Frontiers in Marine Science, vol. 4, pp. 1-13.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Gardner, S.G., Raina, J.-.B., Nitschke, M.R., Nielsen, D.A., Stat, M., Motti, C.A., Ralph, P.J. & Petrou, K. 2017, 'A multi-trait systems approach reveals a response cascade to bleaching in corals.', BMC biology, vol. 15, no. 1, p. 117.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Climate change causes the breakdown of the symbiotic relationships between reef-building corals and their photosynthetic symbionts (genus Symbiodinium), with thermal anomalies in 2015-2016 triggering the most widespread mass coral bleaching on record and unprecedented mortality on the Great Barrier Reef. Targeted studies using specific coral stress indicators have highlighted the complexity of the physiological processes occurring during thermal stress, but have been unable to provide a clear mechanistic understanding of coral bleaching.Here, we present an extensive multi-trait-based study in which we compare the thermal stress responses of two phylogenetically distinct and widely distributed coral species, Acropora millepora and Stylophora pistillata, integrating 14 individual stress indicators over time across a simulated thermal anomaly. We found that key stress responses were conserved across both taxa, with the loss of symbionts and the activation of antioxidant mechanisms occurring well before collapse of the physiological parameters, including gross oxygen production and chlorophyll a. Our study also revealed species-specific traits, including differences in the timing of antioxidant regulation, as well as drastic differences in the production of the sulfur compound dimethylsulfoniopropionate during bleaching. Indeed, the concentration of this antioxidant increased two-fold in A. millepora after the corals started to bleach, while it decreased 70% in S. pistillata.We identify a well-defined cascading response to thermal stress, demarking clear pathophysiological reactions conserved across the two species, which might be central to fully understanding the mechanisms triggering thermally induced coral bleaching. These results highlight that bleaching is a conserved mechanism, but specific adaptations linked to the coral's antioxidant capacity drive differences in the sensitivity and thus tolerance of each coral species to thermal stress.