Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles
Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles

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Fricke A.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Fricke A.,University of Bremen | Titlyanova T.V.,RAS A.V. Zhirmunsky Institute of Marine Biology | Nugues M.M.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | And 2 more authors.
Coral Reefs | Year: 2011

Lobophora variegata is a dominant macroalga on coral reefs across the Caribbean. Over the last two decades, it has expanded its vertical distribution to both shallow and deep reefs along the leeward coast of the island of Curaçao, Southern Caribbean. However, the ecological implications of this expansion and the role of L. variegata as a living substratum are poorly known. This study compared epiphytic algal communities on L. variegata blades along two depth transects (6-40 m). The epiphytic community was diverse with a total of 70 species of which 49 were found directly attached to L. variegata. The epiphytic community varied significantly between blade surface, depth and site. The greatest number of genera per blade was found growing on the underside of the blades regardless of site and depth. Filamentous red algae (e.g. Neosiphonia howei) were commonly found on the upperside of the blades over the whole depth gradient, whereas the underside was mainly colonized by calcifying (e.g. Hydrolithon spp., Jania spp., Amphiroa fragillissima), fleshy red algae (e.g. Champia spp., Gelidiopsis spp., Hypneaspinella) and foliose brown alga (e.g. Dictyota spp.). Anotrichum tenue, a red alga capable of overgrowing corals, was a common epiphyte of both blade surfaces. L. variegata plays an important role as a newly available substratum. Thus, its spread may influence other algal species and studies of benthic macroalgae such as L. variegata should also take into consideration their associated epiphytic algal communities. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.


Quere G.,Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology | Quere G.,CNRS Insular Research Center and Environment Observatory | Steneck R.S.,University of Maine, United States | Nugues M.M.,CNRS Insular Research Center and Environment Observatory | And 2 more authors.
Coral Reefs | Year: 2015

Distribution and abundance of coral diseases have been well documented, but only a few studies considered diseases affecting crustose coralline algae (CCA), particularly at the species level. We investigated the spatiotemporal dynamics of diseases affecting CCA along the south coast of Curaçao, southern Caribbean. Two syndromes were detected: the Coralline White Band Syndrome (CWBS) previously described and the Coralline White Patch Disease (CWPD) reported here for the first time. Diseases were present at all six study sites, and our results did not reveal a relationship between disease occurrence and human influence. Both diseases were more prevalent on the shallower reef flat than on the deeper reef slope, and during the warm/rainy season than during the cold/dry season. The patterns observed were consistent with a positive link between temperature and disease occurrence. Reef flat communities were dominated by Neogoniolithon mamillare and Paragoniolithon solubile, whereas deeper habitats were dominated by Hydrolithon boergesenii. Diseases affected all the species encountered, and no preferable host was detected. There was a significant relationship between both disease occurrences and CCA cover. Monitoring of affected patches revealed that 90 % of lesions in CWBS increased in size, whereas 88 % of CWPD lesions regenerated over time. CWBS linear progression rate did not vary between seasons or species and ranged from 0.15 to 0.36 cm month−1, which is in the same order of magnitude as rates previously documented. We conclude that diseases have the potential to cause major loss in CCA cover, particularly in shallow waters. As CCA play a key role in reef ecosystems, our study suggests that the emergence of diseases affecting these algae may pose a real threat to coral reef ecosystems. The levels of disease reported here will provide a much-needed local baseline allowing future comparisons. © 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Stampar S.N.,University of Sao Paulo | Maronna M.M.,University of Sao Paulo | Vermeij M.J.A.,Carmabi Foundation | Vermeij M.J.A.,University of Amsterdam | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The use of molecular data for species delimitation in Anthozoa is still a very delicate issue. This is probably due to the low genetic variation found among the molecular markers (primarily mitochondrial) commonly used for Anthozoa. Ceriantharia is an anthozoan group that has not been tested for genetic divergence at the species level. Recently, all three Atlantic species described for the genus Isarachnanthus of Atlantic Ocean, were deemed synonyms based on morphological simmilarities of only one species: Isarachnanthus maderensis. Here, we aimed to verify whether genetic relationships (using COI, 16S, ITS1 and ITS2 molecular markers) confirmed morphological affinities among members of Isarachnanthus from different regions across the Atlantic Ocean. Results from four DNA markers were completely congruent and revealed that two different species exist in the Atlantic Ocean. The low identification success and substantial overlap between intra and interspecific COI distances render the Anthozoa unsuitable for DNA barcoding, which is not true for Ceriantharia. In addition, genetic divergence within and between Ceriantharia species is more similar to that found in Medusozoa (Hydrozoa and Scyphozoa) than Anthozoa and Porifera that have divergence rates similar to typical metazoans. The two genetic species could also be separated based on micromorphological characteristics of their cnidomes. Using a specimen of Isarachnanthus bandanensis from Pacific Ocean as an outgroup, it was possible to estimate the minimum date of divergence between the clades. The cladogenesis event that formed the species of the Atlantic Ocean is estimated to have occured around 8.5 million years ago (Miocene) and several possible speciation scenarios are discussed. © 2012 Stampar et al.


Kelly L.W.,San Diego State University | Barott K.L.,San Diego State University | Dinsdale E.,San Diego State University | Friedlander A.M.,University of Hawaii at Manoa | And 10 more authors.
ISME Journal | Year: 2012

The Line Islands are calcium carbonate coral reef platforms located in iron-poor regions of the central Pacific. Natural terrestrial run-off of iron is non-existent and aerial deposition is extremely low. However, a number of ship groundings have occurred on these atolls. The reefs surrounding the shipwreck debris are characterized by high benthic cover of turf algae, macroalgae, cyanobacterial mats and corallimorphs, as well as particulate-laden, cloudy water. These sites also have very low coral and crustose coralline algal cover and are call black reefs because of the dark-colored benthic community and reduced clarity of the overlying water column. Here we use a combination of benthic surveys, chemistry, metagenomics and microcosms to investigate if and how shipwrecks initiate and maintain black reefs. Comparative surveys show that the live coral cover was reduced from 40 to 60% to <10% on black reefs on Millennium, Tabuaeran and Kingman. These three sites are relatively large (>0.75 km2). The phase shift occurs rapidly; the Kingman black reef formed within 3 years of the ship grounding. Iron concentrations in algae tissue from the Millennium black reef site were six times higher than in algae collected from reference sites. Metagenomic sequencing of the Millennium Atoll black reef-associated microbial community was enriched in iron-associated virulence genes and known pathogens. Microcosm experiments showed that corals were killed by black reef rubble through microbial activity. Together these results demonstrate that shipwrecks and their associated iron pose significant threats to coral reefs in iron-limited regions. © 2012 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved.


Marhaver K.L.,University of California at San Diego | Marhaver K.L.,CARMABI Foundation | Vermeij M.J.A.,CARMABI Foundation | Vermeij M.J.A.,University of Amsterdam | And 2 more authors.
Ecology | Year: 2013

The Janzen-Connell hypothesis states that host-specific biotic enemies (pathogens and predators) promote the coexistence of tree species in tropical forests by causing distance-or density-dependent mortality of seeds and seedlings. Although coral reefs are the aquatic analogues of tropical forests, the Janzen-Connell model has never been proposed as an explanation for high diversity in these ecosystems. We tested the central predictions of the Janzen-Connell model in a coral reef, using swimming larvae and settled polyps of the common Caribbean coral Montastraea faveolata. In a field experiment to test for distance-or density-dependent mortality, coral settler mortality was higher and more strongly density dependent in locations down-current from adult corals. Survival did not increase monotonically with distance, however, revealing the influence of fluid dynamics around adult corals in structuring spatial patterns of mortality. Complementary microbial profiles around adult coral heads revealed that one potential cause of settler mortality, marine microbial communities, are structured at the same spatial scale. In a field experiment to test whether factors causing juvenile mortality are host specific, settler mortality was 2.3-3.0 times higher near conspecific adults vs. near adult corals of other genera or in open reef areas. In four laboratory experiments to test for distance-dependent, host-specific mortality, swimming coral larvae were exposed to water collected near conspecific adult corals, near other coral genera, and in open areas of the reef. Microbial abundance in these water samples was manipulated with filters and antibiotics to test whether the cause of mortality was biotic (i.e., microbial). Juvenile survivorship was lowest in unfiltered water collected near conspecifics, and survivorship increased when this water was filter sterilized, collected farther away, or collected near other adult coral genera. Together these results demonstrate for the first time that the diversity-promoting mechanisms embodied in the Janzen-Connell model can operate in a marine ecosystem and in an animal. The distribution of adult corals across a reef will thus influence the spatial pattern of juvenile survival. When rare coral species have a survival advantage, coral species diversity per se becomes increasingly important for the persistence and recovery of coral cover on tropical reefs. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.


Vermeij M.J.A.,Carmabi Foundation | Vermeij M.J.A.,University of Amsterdam | Marhaver K.L.,University of California at San Diego | Huijbers C.M.,Radboud University Nijmegen | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

Free-swimming larvae of tropical corals go through a critical life-phase when they return from the open ocean to select a suitable settlement substrate. During the planktonic phase of their life cycle, the behaviours of small coral larvae (,1 mm) that influence settlement success are difficult to observe in situ and are therefore largely unknown. Here, we show that coral larvae respond to acoustic cues that may facilitate detection of habitat from large distances and from upcurrent of preferred settlement locations. Using in situ choice chambers, we found that settling coral larvae were attracted to reef sounds, produced mainly by fish and crustaceans, which we broadcast underwater using loudspeakers. Our discovery that coral larvae can detect and respond to sound is the first description of an auditory response in the invertebrate phylum Cnidaria, which includes jellyfish, anemones, and hydroids as well as corals. If, like settlement-stage reef fish and crustaceans, coral larvae use reef noise as a cue for orientation, the alleviation of noise pollution in the marine environment may gain further urgency. © 2010 Vermeij et al.


Hartmann A.C.,University of California at San Diego | Marhaver K.L.,University of California at Merced | Marhaver K.L.,CARMABI Foundation | Chamberland V.F.,CARMABI Foundation | And 4 more authors.
Ecology | Year: 2013

When juveniles must tolerate harsh environments early in life, the disproportionate success of certain phenotypes across multiple early life stages will dramatically influence adult community composition and dynamics. In many species, large offspring have a higher tolerance for stressful environments than do smaller conspecifics (parental effects). However, we have a poor understanding of whether the benefits of increased parental investment carry over after juveniles escape harsh environments or progress to later life stages (latent effects). To investigate whether parental effects and latent effects interactively influence offspring success, we determined the degree to which latent effects of harsh abiotic conditions are mediated by offspring size in two stony coral species. Larvae of both species were sorted by size class and exposed to relatively high-temperature or low-salinity conditions. Survivorship was quantified for six days in these stressful environments, after which surviving larvae were placed in ambient conditions and evaluated for their ability to settle and metamorphose. We subsequently assessed long-term post-settlement survival of one species in its natural environment. Following existing theory, we expected that, within and between species, larger offspring would have a higher tolerance for harsh environmental conditions than smaller offspring. We found that large size did enhance offspring performance in each species. However, large offspring size within a species did not reduce the proportional, negative latent effects of harsh larval environments. Furthermore, the coral species that produces larger offspring was more, not less, prone to negative latent effects. We conclude that, within species, large offspring size does not increase resistance to latent effects. Comparing between species, we conclude that larger offspring size does not inherently confer greater robustness, and we instead propose that other life history characteristics such as larval duration better predict the tolerance of offspring to harsh and variable abiotic conditions. Additionally, when considering how stressful environments influence offspring performance, studies that only evaluate direct effects may miss crucial downstream (latent) effects on juveniles that have significant consequences for long-term population dynamics. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.


Vermeij M.J.A.,Carmabi Foundation | Vermeij M.J.A.,University of Amsterdam | van der Heijden R.A.,University of Amsterdam | Olthuis J.G.,University of Amsterdam | And 3 more authors.
Oecologia | Year: 2013

The mechanisms by which algae disperse across space on coral reefs are poorly known. We investigated the ability of four common Caribbean herbivorous fish species to disperse viable algal fragments through consumption of macroalgae and subsequent defecation. Fragments of all major algal taxa (Phaeophyta, Rhodophyta, and Chlorophyta) were found in 98. 7 % of the fecal droppings of all fish species; however, the ability to survive gut passage and reattach to a substrate differed between algal taxa. While survival and reattachment approached zero for Phaeophyta and Chlorophyta, 76. 4 % of the fragments belonging to the group Rhodophyta (mostly species in the order Gelidiaceae) survived gut passage, and were able to grow and reattach to the substrate by forming new rhizoids. Our results thus show that Gelidid algal species are dispersed by swimming herbivores. While the relative contribution of this mechanism to overall algal dispersal and recruitment in a wider ecological context remains unknown, our findings illustrate a previously undescribed mechanism of algal dispersal on coral reefs which is analogous to the dispersal of terrestrial plants, plant fragments, and seeds via herbivore ingestion and defecation. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.


Vermeij M.J.A.,Carmabi Foundation | Vermeij M.J.A.,University of Amsterdam | Bakker J.,University of Amsterdam | van der Hal N.,University of Amsterdam | Bak R.P.M.,Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Diversity | Year: 2011

A comparison of the community structure of juvenile hermatypic corals of 2 to 37 m depth at the fringing reefs of Curaçao between 1975 and 2005 shows a decline of 54.7% in juvenile coral abundance and a shift in species composition. Agaricia species and Helioseris cucullata, the most common juveniles in 1975, showed the largest decline in juvenile abundance (a 9 and 120 fold decrease in density respectively) with Helioseris cucullata being nearly extirpated locally. In 2005, Porites astreoides contributed most colonies to the juvenile coral community, increasing from 8.2% (in 1975) to 19.9% of the total juvenile community. Between 1975 and 2005, juveniles of brooding species decreased in relative abundance while the abundance of juveniles of broadcast spawning species increased or remained the same. These data illustrate the magnitude of the changes that have occurred in only three decades in the composition of juvenile coral communities. © 2011 by the authors.


Vermeij M.J.A.,Carmabi Foundation | Vermeij M.J.A.,University of Amsterdam | van Moorselaar I.,University of Amsterdam | Engelhard S.,University of Amsterdam | And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

Turf algae are multispecies communities of small marine macrophytes that are becoming a dominant component of coral reef communities around the world. To assess the impact of turf algae on corals, we investigated the effects of increased nutrients (eutrophication) on the interaction between the Caribbean coral Montastraea annularis and turf algae at their growth boundary. We also assessed whether herbivores are capable of reducing the abundance of turf algae at coral-algae boundaries. We found that turf algae cause visible (overgrowth) and invisible negative effects (reduced fitness) on neighbouring corals. Corals can overgrow neighbouring turf algae very slowly (at a rate of 0.12 mm 3 wk -1) at ambient nutrient concentrations, but turf algae overgrew corals (at a rate of 0.34 mm 3 wk -1) when nutrients were experimentally increased. Exclusion of herbivores had no measurable effect on the rate turf algae overgrew corals. We also used PAM fluorometry (a common approach for measuring of a colony's "fitness") to detect the effects of turf algae on the photophysiology of neighboring corals. Turf algae always reduced the effective photochemical efficiency of neighbouring corals, regardless of nutrient and/or herbivore conditions. The findings that herbivores are not capable of controlling the abundance of turf algae and that nutrient enrichment gives turf algae an overall competitive advantage over corals together have serious implications for the health of Caribbean coral reef systems. At ambient nutrient levels, traditional conservation measures aimed at reversing coral-to-algae phase shifts by reducing algal abundance (i.e., increasing herbivore populations by establishing Marine Protected Areas or tightening fishing regulations) will not necessarily reduce the negative impact of turf algae on local coral communities. Because turf algae have become the most abundant benthic group on Curac ̧ao (and likely elsewhere in the Caribbean), new conservation strategies are required to mitigate their negative impact on coral communities. © 2010 Vermeij et al.

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