Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI

Willemstad, Netherlands

Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI

Willemstad, Netherlands
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Wolf A.T.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Nugues M.M.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Nugues M.M.,CNRS Insular Research Center and Environment Observatory | Nugues M.M.,Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI | And 2 more authors.
Coral Reefs | Year: 2014

The fireworm Hermodice carunculata is a facultative corallivore on coral reefs. It can interact with algal overgrowth to cause coral mortality. However, because of its cryptic nature, little is known about its ecology. We used micropredator attracting devices (MADs) and stable isotope analyses to provide insights into the distribution and diet of H. carunculata in a coral reef on Curaçao, southern Caribbean. MADs consisted of algal clumps inside accessible mesh nets which H. carunculata could use as refuge. To obtain indications on its distribution pattern, MADs filled with Halimeda opuntia were deployed in different reef habitats ranging from 0 to 16 m water depth. Fireworms were found inside MADs in all reef habitats, indicating that they have a widespread horizontal and vertical distribution, ranging from the shoreline to the deeper reef slope. On the reef crest, MADs were filled using different algal species and deployed on dead or live scleractinian corals. MADs hosted more fireworms when placed on live corals, regardless of algal species used, suggesting that algal-induced corallivory may be widespread. To test for food preferences, different food sources were added inside the MADs. Fireworms detected potential prey within 6 h and were significantly more attracted by decaying corals and raw fish than by live corals, hydrozoans, or gorgonians. Stable isotope analyses indicated detritus, macroalgae, and scleractinian corals as potential food sources and revealed an ontogenetic dietary shift toward enriched δ13C and δ15N values with increasing fireworm size, suggesting that large-sized individuals feed on food sources of higher trophic levels. Our findings highlight H. carunculata as a widespread, and omnivorous scavenger that has the potential to switch feeding toward weakened or stressed corals, thereby likely acting as a harmful corallivore on degraded reefs. © 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Lim Y.W.,San Diego State University | Cuevas D.A.,San Diego State University | Silva G.G.Z.,San Diego State University | Aguinaldo K.,San Diego State University | And 21 more authors.
PeerJ | Year: 2014

Genomics and metagenomics have revolutionized our understanding of marine microbial ecology and the importance of microbes in global geochemical cycles. However, the process of DNA sequencing has always been an abstract extension of the research expedition, completed once the samples were returned to the laboratory. During the 2013 Southern Line Islands Research Expedition, we started the first effort to bring next generation sequencing to some of the most remote locations on our planet. We successfully sequenced twenty six marine microbial genomes, and two marine microbial metagenomes using the Ion Torrent PGM platform on the Merchant Yacht Hanse Explorer. Onboard sequence assembly, annotation, and analysis enabled us to investigate the role of the microbes in the coral reef ecology of these islands and atolls. This analysis identified phosphonate as an important phosphorous source for microbes growing in the Line Islands and reinforced the importance of Lserine in marine microbial ecosystems. Sequencing in the field allowed us to propose hypotheses and conduct experiments and further sampling based on the sequences generated. By eliminating the delay between sampling and sequencing, we enhanced the productivity of the research expedition. By overcoming the hurdles associated with sequencing on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean we proved the flexibility of the sequencing, annotation, and analysis pipelines. © 2014 Lim et al.


Haas A.F.,San Diego State University | Guibert M.,ENSTA ParisTech | Foerschner A.,Getty Research Institute | Co T.,San Diego State University | And 12 more authors.
PeerJ | Year: 2015

The natural beauty of coral reefs attracts millions of tourists worldwide resulting in substantial revenues for the adjoining economies. Although their visual appearance is a pivotal factor attracting humans to coral reefs current monitoring protocols exclusively target biogeochemical parameters, neglecting changes in their aesthetic appearance. Here we introduce a standardized computational approach to assess coral reef environments based on 109 visual features designed to evaluate the aesthetic appearance of art. The main feature groups include color intensity and diversity of the image, relative size, color, and distribution of discernable objects within the image, and texture. Specific coral reef aesthetic values combining all 109 features were calibrated against an established biogeochemical assessment (NCEAS) using machine learning algorithms. These values were generated for ~2,100 random photographic images collected from 9 coral reef locations exposed to varying levels of anthropogenic influence across 2 ocean systems. Aesthetic values proved accurate predictors of the NCEAS scores (root mean square error < 5 for N ≥ 3) and significantly correlated to microbial abundance at each site. This shows that mathematical approaches designed to assess the aesthetic appearance of photographic images can be used as an inexpensive monitoring tool for coral reef ecosystems. It further suggests that human perception of aesthetics is not purely subjective but influenced by inherent reactions towards measurable visual cues. By quantifying aesthetic features of coral reef systems this method provides a cost efficient monitoring tool that targets one of the most important socioeconomic values of coral reefs directly tied to revenue for its local population. © 2015 Haas et al.


Barott K.L.,San Diego State University | Rodriguez-Mueller B.,San Diego State University | Youle M.,Rainbow Rock | Marhaver K.L.,University of California at Merced | And 5 more authors.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2012

Competition between reef-building corals and benthic algae is of key importance for reef dynamics. These interactions occur on many spatial scales, ranging from chemical to regional. Using microprobes, 16S rDNA pyrosequencing and underwater surveys, we examined the interactions between the reef-building coral Montastraea annularis and four types of benthic algae. The macroalgae Dictyota bartayresiana and Halimeda opuntia, as well as a mixed consortium of turf algae, caused hypoxia on the adjacent coral tissue. Turf algae were also associated with major shifts in the bacterial communities at the interaction zones, including more pathogens and virulence genes. In contrast to turf algae, interactions with crustose coralline algae (CCA) and M. annularis did not appear to be antagonistic at any scale. These zones were not hypoxic, the microbes were not pathogen-like and the abundance of coral-CCA interactions was positively correlated with per cent coral cover. We propose a model in which fleshy algae (i.e. some species of turf and fleshy macroalgae) alter benthic competition dynamics by stimulating bacterial respiration and promoting invasion of virulent bacteria on corals. This gives fleshy algae a competitive advantage over corals when human activities, such as overfishing and eutrophication, remove controls on algal abundance. Together, these results demonstrate the intricate connections and mechanisms that structure coral reefs. © 2011 The Royal Society.


Barott K.L.,San Diego State University | Williams G.J.,University of California at San Diego | Vermeij M.J.A.,Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI | Vermeij M.J.A.,Central University of Venezuela | And 5 more authors.
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2012

Competition between corals and benthic algae is prevalent on coral reefs worldwide and has the potential to influence the structure of the reef benthos. Human activities may influence the outcome of these interactions by favoring algae to become the superior competitor, and this type of change in competitive dynamics is a potential mechanism driving coral-algal phase shifts. Here we surveyed the types and outcomes of coral interactions with benthic algae in the Line Islands of the Central Pacific. Islands ranged from nearly pristine to heavily fished. We observed major differences in the dominant groups of algae interacting with corals between sites, and the outcomes of coral-algal interactions varied across reefs on the different islands. Corals were generally better competitors against crustose coralline algae regardless of location, and were superior competitors against turf algae on reefs surrounding uninhabited islands. On reefs surrounding inhabited islands, however, turf algae were generally the superior competitors. When corals were broken down by size class, we found that the smallest and the largest coral colonies were the best competitors against algae; the former successfully fought off algae while being completely surrounded, and the latter generally avoided algal overgrowth by growing up above the benthos. Our data suggest that human disruption of the reef ecosystem may lead to a building pattern of competitive disadvantage for corals against encroaching algae, particularly turf algae, potentially initiating a transition towards algal dominance. © Inter-Research 2012.


Gregg A.K.,San Diego State University | Hatay M.,San Diego State University | Haas A.F.,San Diego State University | Robinett N.L.,San Diego State University | And 8 more authors.
PeerJ | Year: 2013

Algae-derived dissolved organic matter has been hypothesized to induce mortality of reef building corals. One proposed killing mechanism is a zone of hypoxia created by rapidly growing microbes. To investigate this hypothesis, biological oxygen demand (BOD) optodes were used to quantify the change in oxygen concentrations of microbial communities following exposure to exudates generated by turf algae and crustose coralline algae (CCA). BOD optodes were embedded with microbial communities cultured from Montastraea annularis and Mussismilia hispida, and respiration was measured during exposure to turf and CCA exudates. The oxygen concentrations along the optodes were visualized with a low-cost Submersible Oxygen Optode Recorder (SOOpR) system. With this system we observed that exposure to exudates derived from turf algae stimulated higher oxygen drawdown by the coral-associated bacteria than CCA exudates or seawater controls. Furthermore, in both turf and CCA exudate treatments, all microbial communities (coral-, algae-associated and pelagic) contributed significantly to the observed oxygen drawdown. This suggests that the driving factor for elevated oxygen consumption rates is the source of exudates rather than the initially introduced microbial community. Our results demonstrate that exudates fromturf algae may contribute to hypoxia-induced coral stress in two different coral genera as a result of increased biological oxygen demand of the local microbial community. Additionally, the SOOpR system developed here can be applied to measure the BODof any culturable microbe or microbial community. © 2013 Gregg et al.


Wolf A.T.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Nugues M.M.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Nugues M.M.,CNRS Insular Research Center and Environment Observatory | Nugues M.M.,Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI
Ecology | Year: 2013

Indirect biotic interactions play a crucial role in structuring ecological communities, but many of these interactions have not been explored. Algal competition and corallivory are two major stressors contributing to the decline of coral reefs. Here, we provide the first evidence of algal-induced corallivory and synergistic effects between the two stressors on corals. When corals (Montastraea faveolata) were placed in contact with algae (Halimeda opuntia) together with corallivorous fireworms (Hermodice carunculata) in aquaria, corals suffered high tissue mortality. This mortality was reduced in the presence of algae only, and no mortality occurred in the presence of fireworms only or when excluding both algae and fireworms. These findings were supported by field observations showing a predominance of fireworms inside algae contacting live corals, and by an in situ experiment demonstrating higher coral mortality in contact with algae left undisturbed than with algae from which all mobile epifauna were periodically removed. Among the main contributing mechanisms, we suggest that algal contact produces decaying coral tissue that attracts the corallivore and enhances its aggregation behavior. Our study demonstrates an indirect effect pathway by which algae can impact corals, which shares similarities with the classic models of apparent competition and habitat facilitation. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.


Wolf A.T.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Nugues M.M.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Nugues M.M.,CNRS Insular Research Center and Environment Observatory | Nugues M.M.,Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI
Coral Reefs | Year: 2013

Coral predation by the fireworm Hermodice carunculata was investigated by presenting settlers (<3-week-old) and adults of two species of Caribbean corals, Montastraea faveolata and Agaricia humilis, to three different size classes of fireworms under laboratory conditions. For both coral species, survival rates of settlers were low (<2 % after 4 days), intermediate (42-54 %) and high (>90 %) in the presence of small-, mid- and large-sized fireworms, respectively. In contrast, fireworms hardly preyed on adult corals, irrespective of their sizes. Our results suggest an ontogenic shift in the diet of H. carunculata and in the susceptibility of corals to predation by fireworms. H. carunculata, in particular small-sized individuals, could be an important cause for early post-settlement mortality in corals. The corallivore could reinforce recruitment bottlenecks and reduce coral recovery after disturbances. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Vermeij M.J.A.,Caribbean research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI | Vermeij M.J.A.,University of Amsterdam | Debrot A.O.,Caribbean research and Management of Biodiversity CARMABI | Van Der Hal N.,University of Amsterdam | And 3 more authors.
Bulletin of Marine Science | Year: 2010

Recruitment of the sea urchin Diadema antillarum Philippi, 1845 was studied on artificial recruitment panels along the leeward coast of the island of Curaçao, southern Caribbean. Data were compared with historical data from the same coast that were collected before (1982-1983) and after (1984) the Caribbean-wide mass mortality of Diadema in October 1983. Average recruitment rates observed in 2005 were equal to 2.2 times lower compared to those observed before the D. antillarum die-off (1982 and 1983), but 56.5 times higher than those observed after the die-off in 1984. The increase in recruitment rates between 1984 and 2005 was 5-51 times greater than the increase in abundance of adult individuals over the same period. This suggests that despite the largely recovered recruitment rates of this important reef herbivore, unknown sources of high post-settlement mortality currently prevent a similar recovery of its adult population. © 2010 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami.

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