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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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).

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

Illuminating slices from massive coral skeletons under ultraviolet light can reveal bright luminescent lines in nearshore corals affected by freshwater river flows. The occurrence and intensity of these lines in long-lived corals can then be used to reconstruct past river flow and rainfall, extending the instrumental records of past tropical climate variability considerably. Earlier studies from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, have used visual assessments of luminescent line intensity to develop semi-quantitative (though potentially subjective) indices of spatial and temporal variations in freshwater flows. Annual visual assessments and relative coral luminescence intensity (measured by fluorescence spectroscopy) and growth variables are first compared for 89 Porites coral colonies from 30 reefs throughout the length and breadth of the GBR. This demonstrates that simple visual assessments can provide useful information, in the absence of quantitative measurements, of this proxy freshwater tracer. The annual range of measured luminescence between the preceding winter minimum and summer maximum, rather than annual average or annual maximum luminescence is shown to be the most robust measure of freshwater flow. Second, from analyses of the coral colony data and over 40-century-long or longer coral core records, attention is drawn to a potential age artefact in annual average and annual maximum measured coral luminescence. These variables show a significant decline through time, similar to the observed decline in average skeletal density. Although the reasons for this decline are unknown, it could compromise interpretation of long-term variations in freshwater flows and subsequent climatic inferences. This artefact does not appear to affect the annual luminescence range which, it is concluded, is a robust proxy for inter-annual variations in river flow and rainfall. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

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.

Alongi D.M.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
Carbon Management | Year: 2012

Mangrove forests are highly productive, with carbon production rates equivalent to tropical humid forests. Mangroves allocate proportionally more carbon belowground, and have higher below-to above-ground carbon mass ratios than terrestrial trees. Most mangrove carbon is stored as large pools in soil and dead roots. Mangroves are among the most carbon-rich biomes, containing an average of 937 tC ha-1, facilitating the accumulation of fine particles, and fostering rapid rates of sediment accretion (∼5 mm year -1) and carbon burial (174 gC m-2 year -1). Mangroves account for only approximately 1% (13.5 Gt year -1) of carbon sequestration by the worlds forests, but as coastal habitats they account for 14% of carbon sequestration by the global ocean. If mangrove carbon stocks are disturbed, resultant gas emissions may be very high. Irrespective of uncertainties and the unique nature of implementing REDD+ and Blue Carbon projects, mangroves are prime ecosystems for reforestation and restoration. © 2012 Future Science Ltd.

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.

Alongi D.M.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
Environmental Science and Policy | Year: 2011

Natural ecosystem change over time is an often unconsidered issue for PES and REDD+ schemes, and a lack of consideration of thermodynamic limitations has led to misconceptions and oversimplifications regarding ecosystem services, especially for tropical mangrove forests. Mangroves are non-linear, non-equilibrium systems uniquely adapted to a highly dynamic boundary where shorelines are continually evolving and sea-level ever changing, and rarely conform to classical concepts of forest development and succession. Not all mangroves accumulate carbon and rates of forest floor accretion are directly linked to the frequency of tidal inundation. Carbon payments in either a PES or REDD+ scheme are dependent on the rate of carbon sequestration, not the size of C stocks, so site selection must be ordinarily confined to the sea edge. Gas emissions and net ecosystem production (NEP) are linked to forest age, particularly for monospecific plantations. Planting of mixed-species forests is recommended to maximize biodiversity, food web connectivity and NEP. Old-growth forests are the prime ecosystems for carbon sequestration, and policy must give priority to schemes to maintain their existence. Large uncertainties exist in carbon sequestration potential of mangroves, and such limitations must be factored into the design, timeframe and execution of PES and REDD+ schemes. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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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