Nitschke, MR, Gardner, SG, Goyen, S, Fujise, L, Camp, EF, Ralph, PJ & Suggett, DJ 2018, 'Utility of photochemical traits as diagnostics of thermal tolerance amongst great barrier reef corals', Frontiers in Marine Science, vol. 5, no. FEB.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2018 Nitschke, Gardner, Goyen, Fujise, Camp, Ralph and Suggett. Light availability is considered a key factor regulating the thermal sensitivity of reef building corals, where excessive excitation of photosystem II (PSII) further exacerbates pressure on photochemical pathways already compromised by heat stress. Coral symbionts acclimate to changes in light availability (photoacclimation) by continually fine-tuning the photochemical operating efficiency of PSII. However, how this process adjusts throughout the warmest months in naturally heat-tolerant or sensitive species is unknown, and whether this influences the capacity to tolerate transient heat stress is untested. We therefore examined the PSII photophysiology of 10 coral species (with known thermal tolerances) from shallow reef environments at Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia), in spring (October-November, 2015) vs. summer (February-March, 2016). Corals were maintained in flow-through aquaria and rapid light curve (RLC) protocols using pulse amplitude modulated (PAM) fluorometry captured changes in the PSII photoacclimation strategy, characterized as the minimum saturating irradiance (Ek), and the extent of photochemical ([1-C], operating efficiency) vs. non-photochemical ([1-Q]) energy dissipation. Values of Ekacross species were > 2-fold higher in all coral species in spring, consistent with a climate of higher overall light exposure (i.e., higher PAR from lower cloud cover, rainfall and wind speed) compared with summer. Summer decreases in Ekwere combined with a shift toward preferential photochemical quenching in all species. All coral species were subsequently subjected to thermal stress assays. An equivalent temperature-ramping profile of 1°C increase per day and then maintenance at 32°C was applied in each season. Despite the significant seasonal photoacclimation, the species hierarchy of thermal tolerance [maximum quantum yields of PSII (Fv/Fm), monitored at dawn and dusk] did not shift...
Camp, EF, Nitschke, MR, Rodolfo-Metalpa, R, Houlbreque, F, Gardner, SG, Smith, DJ, Zampighi, M & Suggett, DJ 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.
Gardner, SG, Raina, J-B, Nitschke, MR, Nielsen, DA, Stat, M, Motti, CA, Ralph, PJ & 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.
Gardner, SG, Raina, J-B, Ralph, PJ & Petrou, K 2017, 'Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and dimethylated sulphur compounds in coral explants under acute thermal stress.', Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 220, no. Pt 10, pp. 1787-1791.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Coral bleaching is intensifying with global climate change. Although the causes for these catastrophic events are well understood, the cellular mechanism that triggers bleaching is not well established. Our understanding of coral bleaching processes is hindered by the lack of robust methods for studying interactions between host and symbiont at the single-cell level. Here, we exposed coral explants to acute thermal stress and measured oxidative stress, more specifically, reactive oxygen species (ROS), in individual symbiont cells. Furthermore, we measured concentrations of dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) and dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) to elucidate the role of these compounds in coral antioxidant function. This work demonstrates the application of coral explants for investigating coral physiology and biochemistry under thermal stress and delivers a new approach to study host-symbiont interactions at the microscale, allowing us to directly link intracellular ROS with DMSP and DMSO dynamics.
Gardner, SG, Nielsen, DA, Laczka, O, Shimmon, R, Beltran, VH, Ralph, PJ & Petrou, K 2016, 'Dimethylsulfoniopropionate, superoxide dismutase and glutathione as stress response indicators in three corals under short-term hyposalinity stress', PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, vol. 283, no. 1824.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site