Australian Institute of Marine Science

Townsville, Australia

Australian Institute of Marine Science

Townsville, Australia

The Australian Institute of Marine Science is a tropical marine research centre located primarily at Cape Ferguson, North Queensland, Australia. Established in 1972, by the Commonwealth of Australia, the institute's primary function is research for sustainable use and protection of the marine environment. The Institute investigates topics from broad-scale ecology to microbiology.AIMS is committed to the protection and sustainable use of Australia's marine resources. Its research programs support the management of tropical marine environments around the world, with a primary focus on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, the pristine Ningaloo Marine Park in Western Australia and northwest Australia.AIMS' headquarters are located on a 207-hectare coastal site 50km from Townsville, Queensland, in a scientific zone surrounded by National Park and Marine Reserve. The location was selected because of its proximity to the geographical centre of the Great Barrier Reef and access to clean seawater. This strategic position provides a fast transition from the sea to the laboratory, a key advantage in marine science.Two smaller offices, in Perth, Western Australia, and Darwin, Northern Territory, provide direct links for research partners and clients in these regions. Wikipedia.

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Nature lovers should brace themselves for some disturbing news — Australia's Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its second consecutive coral bleaching — which may lead to several ecosystems being destroyed. This is the second mega coral bleaching phenomenon in two years. As reported in November 2016, the Great Barrier Reef had been struck by this unfortunate heat event and many organisms had perished. The reef has not got enough time to recover from that calamity and lo and behold, it has happened again! The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral ecosystem, located in the Coral Sea in the Australian territory. It can be seen from outer space too, as the reef system stretches out for approximately 1,400 miles. A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which surveys and controls human encroachment and abuse of the reef territory. Coral bleaching is the event in which the symbiotic relationship between the algae and the coral is damaged, and the algae are lost, leading the coral to lose its colorful pigment and subsequently die. This occurs generally due to global warming, over-fishing and water contamination to name a few. Representatives from the Marine Park Authority, along with scientists of the Australian Institute of Marine Science had flown over the Reef for six hours, surveying the damage. They saw that the reef had been severely affected, with the phenomenon being recorded for the first time in the northern reach of the reef, towards Cairns. The central part of the reef, which was not effected last year, has taken a hit too. The survey is in line with several word-of-mouth stories about the reef being hit by a second wave of bleaching. "To some extent it's not as important whether this event is not quite as bad or worse than last year's, I think what's important is that the climate is changing and that is bringing a much greater frequency of extreme weather events to the Great Barrier Reef," said Wachenfeld in an interview to ABC News. The experts and scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies will take another aerial tour of the reef next week. They will survey 1150 reefs along the stretch again. This bleaching highlighted the importance of global action on climate change, Wachenfeld said. "It's vital the world acts to implement the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he added. The second consecutive coral bleaching incident is bound to scar the reef permanently. It can be only hoped that the impact will not be too large on the ecosystem. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

News Article | May 29, 2017

Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef last year was even worse than expected, while the full impact of the most recent event is yet to be determined. Queensland government officials say aerial and in-water surveys taken throughout 2016 had confirmed an escalating impact from north to south. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman, Russell Reichelt, said the reef had experienced significant and widespread damage over the past two years. “The amount of coral that died from bleaching in 2016 is up from our original estimates and ... it’s expected we’ll also see an overall further coral cover decline by the end of 2017,” he said in a statement on Monday. Surveys by the Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found the most severe bleaching north of Port Douglas. There, an estimated 70% of shallow water corals had died, with significant variability between and within reefs. It is now confirmed that about 29% of shallow water corals died from bleaching during 2016, up from the previous estimate of 22%, with most mortality occurring in the northern parts of the reef. Bleaching was also found in corals beyond depths divers typically survey, but mortality could not be systematically assessed. However, there was a strong recovery in the south in the absence of bleaching during the same period. Officials are predicting further coral loss this year, resulting from the second consecutive year of bleaching and the impacts of tropical Cyclone Debbie. Over the past few months bleaching occurred in a similar pattern to last year, most severely between Cairns and Townsville.

Hall M.R.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
Nature | Year: 2017

The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS, the Acanthaster planci species group) is a highly fecund predator of reef-building corals throughout the Indo-Pacific region. COTS population outbreaks cause substantial loss of coral cover, diminishing the integrity and resilience of reef ecosystems. Here we sequenced genomes of COTS from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and Okinawa, Japan to identify gene products that underlie species-specific communication and could potentially be used in biocontrol strategies. We focused on water-borne chemical plumes released from aggregating COTS, which make the normally sedentary starfish become highly active. Peptide sequences detected in these plumes by mass spectrometry are encoded in the COTS genome and expressed in external tissues. The exoproteome released by aggregating COTS consists largely of signalling factors and hydrolytic enzymes, and includes an expanded and rapidly evolving set of starfish-specific ependymin-related proteins. These secreted proteins may be detected by members of a large family of olfactory-receptor-like G-protein-coupled receptors that are expressed externally, sometimes in a sex-specific manner. This study provides insights into COTS-specific communication that may guide the generation of peptide mimetics for use on reefs with COTS outbreaks. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.

Wooldridge S.A.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
BioEssays | Year: 2010

The consideration of 'mutual benefits' and partner cooperation have long been the accepted standpoint from which to draw inference about the onset, maintenance and breakdown of the coral-algae endosymbiosis. In this paper, I review recent research into the climate-induced breakdown of this important symbiosis (namely 'coral bleaching') that challenges the validity of this long-standing belief. Indeed, I introduce a more parsimonious explanation, in which the coral host exerts a 'controlled parasitism' over its algal symbionts that is akin to an enforced domestication arrangement. Far from being pathogenic, a range of well-established cellular processes are reviewed that support the role of the coral host as an active 'farmer' of the energy-rich photoassimilates from its captive symbionts. Importantly, this new paradigm reposes the deleterious bleaching response in terms of an envelope of environmental conditions in which the exploitative and captive measures of the coral host are severely restricted. The ramification of this new paradigm for developing management strategies that may assist the evolution of bleaching resistance in corals is discussed. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Impairment of the photosynthetic machinery of the algal endosymbiont (zooxanthellae) is the proximal driver of the thermal breakdown of the coral-algae symbiosis (coral bleaching). Yet, the initial site of damage, and early dynamics of the impairment are still not well resolved. In this perspective essay, I consider further a recent hypothesis which proposes an energetic disruption to the carbon-concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) of the coral host, and the resultant onset of CO2-limitation within the photosynthetic dark reactions as a unifying cellular mechanism. The hypothesis identifies the enhanced retention of photosynthetic carbon for zooxanthellae (re)growth following an initial irradiance-driven expulsion event as a strong contributing cause of the energetic disruption. If true, then it implies that the onset of the bleaching syndrome and setting of upper thermal bleaching limits are emergent attributes of the coral symbiosis that are ultimately underpinned by the characteristic growth profile of the intracellular zooxanthellae; which is known to depend not just on temperature, but also external (seawater) nutrient availability and zooxanthellae genotype. Here, I review this proposed bleaching linkage at a variety of observational scales, and find it to be parsimonious with the available evidence. Future experiments are suggested that can more formally test the linkage. If correct, the new cellular model delivers a valuable new perspective to consider the future prospects of the coral symbiosis in an era of rapid environmental change, including: (i) the underpinning mechanics (and biological significance) of observed changes in resident zooxanthellae genotypes, and (ii) the now crucial importance of reef water quality in co-determining thermal bleaching resistance. © 2012 Author(s).

Alongi D.M.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
Annual Review of Marine Science | Year: 2014

Mangroves are ecologically and economically important forests of the tropics. They are highly productive ecosystems with rates of primary production equal to those of tropical humid evergreen forests and coral reefs. Although mangroves occupy only 0.5 of the global coastal area, they contribute 10-15 (24 Tg C y-1) to coastal sediment carbon storage and export 10-11 of the particulate terrestrial carbon to the ocean. Their disproportionate contribution to carbon sequestration is now perceived as a means for conservation and restoration and a way to help ameliorate greenhouse gas emissions. Of immediate concern are potential carbon losses to deforestation (90-970 Tg C y -1) that are greater than these ecosystems' rates of carbon storage. Large reservoirs of dissolved inorganic carbon in deep soils, pumped via subsurface pathways to adjacent waterways, are a large loss of carbon, at a potential rate up to 40 of annual primary production. Patterns of carbon allocation and rates of carbon flux in mangrove forests are nearly identical to those of other tropical forests. Copyright © 2014 by Annual Reviews.

De'Ath G.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
Ecology | Year: 2012

The multinomial diversity model, MDM, is a new method for relating Shannon diversity to complex environmental, spatial, and temporal predictors. It is based on a parameterized formulation of Shannon entropy and diversity, and a novel link between entropy and the log-likelihood of the multinomial model. The MDM relates diversity to the predictors by minimizing the entropy of the estimated species values. Model effects can be expressed as changes in entropy. Entropy can be partitioned within and between sites, species, and models, and changes in entropy can be attributed to model predictors. All entropies translate into diversity for meaningful ecological interpretation. This greatly enhances our capacity to model complex data sets, and yet also provide simple interpretations. By formulating diversity as a statistical model and working in terms of entropy, diversity is simplified both conceptually and analytically, and diversity analyses are extended beyond traditional simple hierarchies of α, β, γ, and measures of turnover. The MDM inherits the properties of generalized linear models, and thus proven methods can be used for model selection and graphical and numerical interpretation. A weighted version of the Shannon diversity model is proposed in order to extend the MDM to non-Shannon diversities. Two example analyses, based on simulated and field data, illustrate the theoretical concepts and the analytical methods. © 2012 by the Ecological Society of America.

Lough J.M.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
Paleoceanography | Year: 2011

Northeast tropical Queensland rainfall is concentrated in the summer half year and characterized by high interannual variability, partly related to El Nio-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. This results in highly variable river flows affecting nearshore coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Freshwater flood events are recorded in long-lived, annually banded massive coral skeletons as luminescent lines. Quantitative measurements of luminescence intensity were made for 20 Porites coral cores from nearshore reef sites between 11S and 23S. Seventeen of the coral luminescence series were significantly correlated with an instrumental record of northeast Queensland summer rainfall and were used to develop seven significantly calibrated and verified rainfall reconstructions based on between 17 (starting 1891) and 1 (starting 1639) coral series. The longest reconstruction, based on more than one coral, provides insights into northeast Queensland rainfall variability from the late 17th century. Comparisons with various independent climate proxies are equivocal: the magnitude and significance of relationships with, for example, a proxy ENSO index vary through time. An extended drier period reconstructed from approximately the 1760s to the 1850s is associated with lower interannual rainfall variability. Since the late 19th century average rainfall and its variability have significantly increased, with wet and dry extremes becoming more frequent than in earlier centuries. This suggests that a warming global climate maybe associated with more variable tropical Queensland rainfall. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.

Fabricius K.E.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2014

The ecological effects of ocean acidification (OA) from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on benthic marine communities are largely unknown. We investigated in situ the consequences of long-term exposure to high CO2 on coral-reef-associated macroinvertebrate communities around three shallow volcanic CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea. The densities of many groups and the number of taxa (classes and phyla) of macroinvertebrates were significantly reduced at elevated CO2 (425-1100 μatm) compared with control sites. However, sensitivities of some groups, including decapod crustaceans, ascidians and several echinoderms, contrasted with predictions of their physiological CO2 tolerances derived from laboratory experiments. High CO2 reduced the availability of structurally complex corals that are essential refugia for many reef-associated macroinvertebrates. This loss of habitat complexity was also associated with losses in many macroinvertebrate groups, especially predation-prone mobile taxa, including crustaceans and crinoids. The transition from living to dead coral as substratum and habitat further altered macroinvertebrate communities, with far more taxa losing than gaining in numbers. Our study shows that indirect ecological effects of OA (reduced habitat complexity) will complement its direct physiological effects and together with the loss of coral cover through climate change will severely affect macroinvertebrate communities in coral reefs.

Webster N.S.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Taylor M.W.,University of Auckland
Environmental Microbiology | Year: 2012

Many marine sponges harbour dense and diverse microbial communities of considerable ecological and biotechnological importance. While the past decade has seen tremendous advances in our understanding of the phylogenetic diversity of sponge-associated microorganisms (more than 25 bacterial phyla have now been reported from sponges), it is only in the past 3-4 years that the in situ activity and function of these microbes has become a major research focus. Already the rewards of this new emphasis are evident, with genomics and experimental approaches yielding novel insights into symbiont function. Key steps in the nitrogen cycle [denitrification, anaerobic ammonium oxidation (Anammox)] have recently been demonstrated in sponges for the first time, with diverse bacteria - including the sponge-associated candidate phylum 'Poribacteria'- being implicated in these processes. In this minireview we examine recent major developments in the microbiology of sponges, and identify several research areas (e.g. biology of viruses in sponges, effects of environmental stress) that we believe are deserving of increased attention. © 2011 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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