The Future of Coral Reefs: Research Submitted to ICRS 2021/2, Bremen, Germany

A special issue of Oceans (ISSN 2673-1924).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2022) | Viewed by 31343

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Marine Ecology Department, Faculty of Biology and Chemistry, University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany
Interests: ecophysiology; biogeochemistry; microbial ecology

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1. Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Schleusenstraße 1, 26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany
2. Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity at the University of Oldenburg (HIFMB), Ammerländer Heerstrasse 231, 26129 Oldenburg, Germany
Interests: coral reproduction and restoration; phase shifts in benthic communities; coral and sponge microbial symbiosis
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Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
Interests: coral reefs; reef fish; sharks; reef fisheries; corals; marine conservation; marine protected areas
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Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), 28359 Bremen, Germany
Interests: conservation; social-ecological systems

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School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Interests: coral bleaching; biogeochemistry; paleoceanography

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Marine Animal Ecology Group, Wageningen University and Research, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
Interests: sponges; corals; ecophysiology; reef restoration; integrated aquaculture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Second Special Issue linked to the Bremen ICRS.

In connection with the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS 2020, https://www.icrs2020.de/), originally planned to be held in Bremen, Germany, in July 2020, arrangements were made with the journal Oceans to produce a Special Issue associated with the conference, to which conference delegates could submit papers based on their oral presentations or posters.

However, due to the coronavirus epidemic, the conference was postponed. A virtual conference was held as the 14th ICRS online in July 2021, while an in-person meeting (15th ICRS) is now expected to take place in July 2022 in Bremen, Germany.

Nevertheless, to provide attending delegates with an appropriate outlet for their material, a first Special Issue (entitled “The Future of Coral Reefs: Research Submitted to ICRS 2020/21”) based on papers submitted by July 2021 is in the process of publication in Oceans. Twelve accepted manuscripts will published online as they are finalized (https://www.mdpi.com/journal/oceans/special_issues/coral_reefs) by 8 November 2021 (more will come later), thus ensuring publication of 2020/21 manuscripts in the near future.

However, since the follow-up in-person meeting is now to take place in July 2022, it has been agreed that a second Special Issue will be published in 2021/22 in Oceans. This sister volume will retain the same name and continue to reflect the conference themes. Manuscripts for this second volume need to be submitted by 30 September 2022.

Oceans is an open access journal that normally charges authors a fee (https://www.mdpi.com/journal/oceans). However, MDPI have agreed with the organizers of the 14th and 15th ICRSs to publish papers prepared for ICRS2021 virtual and ICRS2022 in-person free of any charge. This is a unique opportunity for participants of the 14th and 15th to publish their work in an international, open access, and peer-reviewed journal for free.

Instructions for submission may be found at https://www.mdpi.com/journal/oceans/instructions. All submissions will be subject to standard reviewing procedures to ensure quality standards of writing and accuracy. Oceans has no restrictions on the length of manuscripts, and hence short papers based on either oral presentations or posters will be considered.

This second volume will be edited by Oceans editors in cooperation with an editorial support team, led by Prof. Dr. Christian Wild, chair of 14th and 15th ICRS.

Authors whose first language is not English are encouraged to submit manuscripts, but they need to have their text checked by a native English speaker or make use of MDPI’s English editing service (https://www.mdpi.com/authors/english). Only manuscripts which are well written in quality scientific English will be considered and sent out for review.

Prof. Dr. Christian Wild
Prof. Dr. Peter Schupp
Prof. Dr. Rupert Ormond
Dr. Sebastian Ferse
Dr. Leila Chapron
Dr. Ronald Osinga
Guest Editors

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Oceans is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (9 papers)

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15 pages, 1706 KiB  
Article
Microbiome of Sri Lankan Coral Reefs: An Indian Ocean Island Subjected to a Gradient of Natural and Anthropogenic Impacts
by Mohamed F. M. Fairoz, Kevin T. Green, Kuwaja N. M. Sajith, Weerathunga A. S. Chamika, Amarasingha M. K. N. Kularathna, Saichetana Macherla, Douglas S. Naliboff, Ana Cobián-Güemes, Linda Wegley-Kelly and Forest Rohwer
Oceans 2023, 4(2), 185-199; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans4020013 - 4 May 2023
Viewed by 2819
Abstract
Coral reefs around Sri Lanka have coexisted with human communities for thousands of years and are a continual source of food, economic productivity, and tourism. Although these reef systems sustain nearby populations, little is known about the presence or functional role of microbial [...] Read more.
Coral reefs around Sri Lanka have coexisted with human communities for thousands of years and are a continual source of food, economic productivity, and tourism. Although these reef systems sustain nearby populations, little is known about the presence or functional role of microbial communities on reefs dominated by hard corals or fleshy algae. Coral reef benthos cover was recorded, and reef-associated water samples were collected, sequenced and analyzed from seven coral reefs around Sri Lanka. Microbial metagenomes were analyzed to reveal both the taxonomic and metabolic makeup of the microbial communities present at each site. A metagenomic analysis of microbial phyla showed that Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria were most abundant, constituting up to 79.4% of microbial communities. At the order level, Rhodobacterales dominated the microbial communities across all sites, with the exception of the Paraviwella coral reef, where the order Alteromonadales dominated. A Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was performed using metagenomic sequence data to find the possible trends of interactions and drivers of taxonomic and metabolic community structure. This study is the first microbial metagenome dataset of coral reef associated water from the Indian Ocean continental island, Sri Lanka. These data further confirm the need for a comprehensive study of reefs in Sri Lanka aimed at elucidating the processes involved in microbial energy utilization. Full article
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19 pages, 1404 KiB  
Article
Need for the Scuba Diving Industry to Interface with Science and Policy: A Case of SIDS Blue Workforce
by Zahidah Afrin Nisa
Oceans 2023, 4(2), 132-150; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans4020010 - 23 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3472
Abstract
To achieve coral reef resilience under Agenda 2030, island governments need to institutionalise a competent blue workforce to expand their reef resilience initiatives across economic organisations and industries. The ability of island governments to shape new policies for sustainable island development relying on [...] Read more.
To achieve coral reef resilience under Agenda 2030, island governments need to institutionalise a competent blue workforce to expand their reef resilience initiatives across economic organisations and industries. The ability of island governments to shape new policies for sustainable island development relying on natural capital, such as coral reefs, has been hampered by structural and institutional deficiencies on both sides of the science-policy interface (SPI) at the UN. Using a qualitative research design, this article explores the science-policy interface (SPI) policy paper, Rebuilding Coral Reefs: A Decadal Grand Challenge and the role of this SPI in guiding UN coral reef financing for island states. This article uses the dive industry to investigate the needs of policymakers in island states via a conceptual framework for policy analysis. This article highlights the gaps of the SPI from the perspective of the global south and is beneficial for the islands selected under the Global Coral Reef Investment Plan. The article highlights the results of the SPI to island decision makers, which indicate that, without a policy framework that includes space for industrial policy within UN SPI, island governments will continue to fall into financial traps that constrain their efforts in operationalising their blue workforce. The study concludes that interlinked SDGs, such as SDG 9 and SDG 8, which focus on linking industrial innovation and infrastructure with decent work, as well as SDG 16 and 14.7, provide SIDS institutions with integrated policy approaches capable of bridging the divides between the scientific community, the diving industry, and island governments and that this needs to be further explored at all levels. Full article
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12 pages, 3125 KiB  
Article
Wanted Dead or Alive: Skeletal Structure Alteration of Cold-Water Coral Desmophyllum pertusum (Lophelia pertusa) from Anthropogenic Stressors
by Erica Terese Krueger, Janina V. Büscher, David A. Hoey, David Taylor, Peter J. O’Reilly and Quentin G. Crowley
Oceans 2023, 4(1), 68-79; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans4010006 - 10 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2693
Abstract
Ocean acidification (OA) has provoked changes in the carbonate saturation state that may alter the formation and structural biomineralisation of calcium carbonate exoskeletons for marine organisms. Biomineral production in organisms such as cold-water corals (CWC) rely on available carbonate in the water column [...] Read more.
Ocean acidification (OA) has provoked changes in the carbonate saturation state that may alter the formation and structural biomineralisation of calcium carbonate exoskeletons for marine organisms. Biomineral production in organisms such as cold-water corals (CWC) rely on available carbonate in the water column and the ability of the organism to sequester ions from seawater or nutrients for the formation and growth of a skeletal structure. As an important habitat structuring species, it is essential to examine the impact that anthropogenic stressors (i.e., OA and rising seawater temperatures) have on living corals and the structural properties of dead coral skeletons; these are important contributors to the entire reef structure and the stability of CWC mounds. In this study, dead coral skeletons in seawater were exposed to various levels of pCO2 and different temperatures over a 12-month period. Nanoindentation was subsequently conducted to assess the structural properties of coral samples’ elasticity (E) and hardness (H), whereas the amount of dissolution was assessed through scanning electron microscopy. Overall, CWC samples exposed to elevated pCO2 and temperature show changes in properties which leave them more susceptible to breakage and may in turn negatively impact the formation and stability of CWC mound development. Full article
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12 pages, 1896 KiB  
Article
Effect of Substratum Structural Complexity of Coral Seedlings on the Settlement and Post-Settlement Survivorship of Coral Settlers
by Shuichi Fujiwara, Daisuke Kezuka, Kazutaka Hagiwara, Hiroo Ishimori and Hideo Tabata
Oceans 2023, 4(1), 1-12; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans4010001 - 26 Dec 2022
Viewed by 2030
Abstract
The substratum structure is critical for facilitating settlement and increasing the survivorship of coral settlers. However, knowledge about its structural complexity is largely lacking. In this study, we examined the effect of complexity on the settlement and post-settlement survivorship of coral settlers using [...] Read more.
The substratum structure is critical for facilitating settlement and increasing the survivorship of coral settlers. However, knowledge about its structural complexity is largely lacking. In this study, we examined the effect of complexity on the settlement and post-settlement survivorship of coral settlers using four types of structures: groove, using a CSD (Coral Settlement Device, 4.5 cm φ × 2.5 cm H, top-shaped ceramic); flat, using a CP (Ceramic Plate, 29.5 cm L × 3.1 cm W × 0.9 cm H, unglazed ceramic plate); linear, using a CN (Coral Net, mesh size 19 mm, biodegradable plastic net); and wrinkle, using a SS (Scallop Shell, 11.0 cm in shell length). The complexity was obtained from the ratio of the surface area to the vertically projected area of the substratum. The substratum sets were installed in the coral reef around the Ryukyu Islands every May from 2012 to 2014. After about 2 or 6 months of spawning, a certain number of substratum types were sampled, and the number of coral spats that settled on them was counted by taxa classified into Acropora, Pocilloporidae, Millepora, and Others. The larval settlement rate in the first set of samples and the survivorship of coral spats in the second set of samples were estimated. The mean settlement rate was, in order, the CSD; SS; CN; and CP, and the mean survivorship was, in order, the CSD; CP; SS; and CN, over three years. A positive correlation was found between the structural complexity, mean settlement rate, and mean survivorship. Our results show that the structural complexity of coral seedlings affects the settlement of coral larvae and the survivorship of coral spats. Full article
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10 pages, 3948 KiB  
Article
Using Colour as a Marker for Coral ‘Health’: A Study on Hyperspectral Reflectance and Fluorescence Imaging of Thermally Induced Coral Bleaching
by Jonathan Teague, Jack Willans, David A. Megson-Smith, John C. C. Day, Michael J. Allen and Thomas B. Scott
Oceans 2022, 3(4), 547-556; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans3040036 - 29 Nov 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2632
Abstract
Rising oceanic temperatures create more frequent coral bleaching events worldwide and as such there exists a need for rapid, non-destructive survey techniques to gather greater and higher definition information than that offered by traditional spectral based monitoring systems. Here, we examine thermally induced [...] Read more.
Rising oceanic temperatures create more frequent coral bleaching events worldwide and as such there exists a need for rapid, non-destructive survey techniques to gather greater and higher definition information than that offered by traditional spectral based monitoring systems. Here, we examine thermally induced laboratory bleaching of Montipora capricornis and Montipora confusa samples, utilising hyperspectral data to gain an understanding of coral bleaching from a spectral standpoint. The data revealed several characteristic spectral peaks that can be used to make health determinations. The fluorescence peaks are attributed to fluorescent proteins (FPs) and Chlorophyll-a fluorescence. The reflectance peaks can be attributed to Chlorophyll absorption and accessory pigments such as Peridinin and Diadinoxanthin. Each characteristic spectral peak or ‘marker’ allows for observation of each aspect of coral health and hence, simultaneous monitoring of these markers using hyperspectral imaging techniques provides an opportunity to better understand the processes occurring during bleaching and the rates at which they occur relative to one another. Full article
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20 pages, 2316 KiB  
Article
Using Stable Isotope Analyses to Assess the Trophic Ecology of Scleractinian Corals
by Michael P. Lesser, Marc Slattery and Keir J. Macartney
Oceans 2022, 3(4), 527-546; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans3040035 - 14 Nov 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2817
Abstract
Studies on the trophic ecology of scleractinian corals often include stable isotope analyses of tissue and symbiont carbon and nitrogen. These approaches have provided critical insights into the trophic sources and sinks that are essential to understanding larger-scale carbon and nitrogen budgets on [...] Read more.
Studies on the trophic ecology of scleractinian corals often include stable isotope analyses of tissue and symbiont carbon and nitrogen. These approaches have provided critical insights into the trophic sources and sinks that are essential to understanding larger-scale carbon and nitrogen budgets on coral reefs. While stable isotopes have identified most shallow water (<30 m) corals as mixotrophic, with variable dependencies on autotrophic versus heterotrophic resources, corals in the mesophotic zone (~30–150 m) transition to heterotrophy with increasing depth because of decreased photosynthetic productivity. Recently, these interpretations of the stable isotope data to distinguish between autotrophy and heterotrophy have been criticized because they are confounded by increased nutrients, reverse translocation of photosynthate, and changes in irradiance that do not influence photosynthate translocation. Here we critically examine the studies that support these criticisms and show that they are contextually not relevant to interpreting the transition to heterotrophy in corals from shallow to mesophotic depths. Additionally, new data and a re-analysis of previously published data show that additional information (e.g., skeletal isotopic analysis) improves the interpretation of bulk stable isotope data in determining when a transition from primary dependence on autotrophy to heterotrophy occurs in scleractinian corals. Full article
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15 pages, 966 KiB  
Article
Environmentally-Driven Variation in the Physiology of a New Caledonian Reef Coral
by Anderson B. Mayfield and Alexandra C. Dempsey
Oceans 2022, 3(1), 15-29; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans3010002 - 6 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2740
Abstract
Given the widespread threats to coral reefs, scientists have lost the opportunity to understand the basic biology of “pristine” corals whose physiologies have not been markedly perturbed by human activity. For instance, high temperature-induced bleaching has been occurring annually since 2014 in New [...] Read more.
Given the widespread threats to coral reefs, scientists have lost the opportunity to understand the basic biology of “pristine” corals whose physiologies have not been markedly perturbed by human activity. For instance, high temperature-induced bleaching has been occurring annually since 2014 in New Caledonia. Because most corals cannot withstand repeated years when bleaching occurs, an analysis was undertaken to showcase coral behavior in a period just before the onset of “annual severe bleaching” (ASB; November 2013) such that future generations might know how these corals functioned in their last bleaching-free year. Pocillopora damicornis colonies were sampled across a variety of environmental gradients, and a subset was sampled during both day and night to understand how their molecular biology changes upon cessation of dinoflagellate photosynthesis. Of the 13 environmental parameters tested, sampling time (i.e., light) most significantly affected coral molecular physiology, and expression levels of a number of both host and Symbiodiniaceae genes demonstrated significant diel variation; endosymbiont mRNA expression was more temporally variable than that of their anthozoan hosts. Furthermore, expression of all stress-targeted genes in both eukaryotic compartments of the holobiont was high, even in isolated, uninhabited, federally protected atolls of the country’s far northwest. Whether this degree of sub-cellular stress reflects cumulative climate change impacts or, instead, a stress-hardened phenotype, will be unveiled through assessing the fates of these corals in the wake of increasingly frequent marine heatwaves. Full article
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11 pages, 5518 KiB  
Article
Different Physiology in the Jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana and C. frondosa in Florida Bay
by William K. Fitt, Dietrich K. Hofmann, Dustin W. Kemp and Aki H. Ohdera
Oceans 2021, 2(4), 811-821; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2040046 - 3 Dec 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3785
Abstract
The jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana and C. frondosa co-occur within some habitats in the Florida Keys, but the frequency with which this occurs is low. It is hypothesized that the symbiosis with different dinoflagellates in the Symbiodiniaceae is the reason: the medusae of C. [...] Read more.
The jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana and C. frondosa co-occur within some habitats in the Florida Keys, but the frequency with which this occurs is low. It is hypothesized that the symbiosis with different dinoflagellates in the Symbiodiniaceae is the reason: the medusae of C. xamachana contain heat-resistant Symbiodinium microadriaticum (ITS-type A1), whereas C. frondosa has heat-sensitive Breviolum sp. (ITS-type B19). Cohabitation occurs at depths of about 3–4 m in Florida Bay, where the water is on average 0.36 °C cooler, or up to 1.1 °C cooler per day. C. frondosa tends not to be found in the warmer and shallower (<2 m) depths of Florida Bay. While the density of symbionts is about equal in the small jellyfish of the two species, large C. frondosa medusae have a greater density of symbionts and appear darker in color compared to large C. xamachana. However, the number of symbionts per amebocyte are about the same, which implies that the large C. frondosa has more amebocytes than the large C. xamachana. The photosynthetic rate is similar in small medusae, but a greater reduction in photosynthesis is observed in the larger medusae of C. xamachana compared to those of C. frondosa. Medusae of C. xamachana have greater pulse rates than medusae of C. frondosa, suggestive of a greater metabolic demand. The differences in life history traits of the two species were also investigated to understand the factors that contribute to observed differences in habitat selection. The larvae of C. xamachana require lower concentrations of inducer to settle/metamorphose, and they readily settle on mangrove leaves, submerged rock, and sand compared to the larvae of C. frondosa. The asexual buds of C. xamachana are of a uniform and similar shape as compared to the variably sized and shaped buds of C. frondosa. The larger polyps of C. frondosa can have more than one attachment site compared to the single holdfast of C. xamachana. This appears to be an example of niche diversification that is likely influenced by the symbiont, with the ecological generalist and heat-resistant S. microadriaticum thriving in C. xamachana in a wider range of habitats as compared to the heat-sensitive symbiont Breviolum sp., which is only found in C. frondosa in the cooler and deeper waters. Full article
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14 pages, 289 KiB  
Commentary
Coral-Focused Climate Change Adaptation and Restoration Based on Accelerating Natural Processes: Launching the “Reefs of Hope” Paradigm
by Austin Bowden-Kerby
Oceans 2023, 4(1), 13-26; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans4010002 - 31 Dec 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 5532
Abstract
The widespread demise of coral reefs due to climate change is now a certainty, and investing in restoration without facing this stark reality risks failure. The 50 Reefs Initiative, the dominant adaptation model for coral reefs is examined, and a new coral-focused paradigm [...] Read more.
The widespread demise of coral reefs due to climate change is now a certainty, and investing in restoration without facing this stark reality risks failure. The 50 Reefs Initiative, the dominant adaptation model for coral reefs is examined, and a new coral-focused paradigm is proposed, based on helping coral reefs adapt to rising temperature, to ensure that as many coral species as possible survive locally over time. With pilot sites established in six Pacific Island nations, genebank nurseries of bleaching resistant corals are secured in cooler waters, to help prevent their demise as heat stress increases. Unbleached corals selected during bleaching events are included. From these nurseries corals are harvested to create nucleation patches of genetically diverse pre-adapted corals, which become reproductively, ecologically and biologically viable at reef scale, spreading out over time. This “Reefs of Hope” paradigm, modelled on tropical forest restoration, creates dense coral patches, using larger transplants or multiple small fragments elevated on structures, forming fish habitat immediately. The fish help increase coral and substratum health, which presumably will enhance natural larval-based recovery processes. We also hypothesize that incoming coral recruits, attracted to the patch, are inoculated by heat adapted algal symbionts, facilitating adaptation of the wider reef. With global emissions out of control, the most we can hope for is to buy precious time for coral reefs by saving coral species and coral diversity that will not likely survive unassisted. Full article
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