Microbial and sponge loops modify fish production in phase-shifting coral reefs

Environmental Microbiology
Cynthia B SilveiraFabiano L Thompson


Shifts from coral to algae dominance of corals reefs have been correlated to fish biomass loss and increased microbial metabolism. Here we investigated reef benthic and planktonic primary production, benthic dissolved organic carbon (DOC) release and bacterial growth efficiency in the Abrolhos Bank, South Atlantic. Benthic DOC release rates are higher while water column bacterial growth efficiency is lower at impacted reefs. A trophic model based on the benthic and planktonic primary production was able to predict the observed relative fish biomass in healthy reefs. In contrast, in impacted reefs, the observed omnivorous fish biomass is higher, while that of the herbivorous/coralivorous fish is lower than predicted by the primary production-based model. Incorporating recycling of benthic-derived carbon in the model through microbial and sponge loops explains the difference and predicts the relative fish biomass in both reef types. Increased benthic carbon release rates and bacterial carbon metabolism, but decreased bacterial growth efficiency could lead to carbon losses through respiration and account for the uncoupling of benthic and fish production in phase-shifting reefs. Carbon recycling by microbial and sponge loops seems ...Continue Reading


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