July 17, 2013
Line Island Expedition Will Shed Light On Microbial Dynamics Of Coral Reef Robustness And Decline
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Climate change, unsustainable fishing, and pollution are serious threats facing coral reefs. A multidisciplinary series of studies is being conducted to understand the underlying processes. The researchers are investigating variability in coral reef community structure and microbial dynamics across gradients of natural and anthropogenic stress.
The expedition to the Line Islands - located in the central Pacific Ocean with one of the most pristine coral reef systems remaining on Earth - is part of an effort to better understand the effects of anthropogenic influences on these fascinating ecosystems, and specifically how microbial communities affect coral reef robustness and decline. The expedition will be launched in the fall of 2013. In preparation for the expedition, the team is launching a Collection of related articles in PeerJ. The Collection - launched on July 16 with four initial articles - will continue to grow as the work of the research collaboration builds up.
The focus of the expedition to the Line Islands will be to shed light on the intricate interactions between microbes, coral, algae and fish. To accomplish this task, the research team has a wide range of expertise in many different scientific disciplines.
The interactions between microbes and macroorganisms in coral reefs, specifically how these systems respond to perturbation, are being investigated by the Laboratory of Forest Rohwer at San Diego State University.
A team from Scripps, led by Jennifer E. Smith, will investigate how local human impacts - such as fishing, pollution and species invasion-and global human impacts, like warming and acidification - affect competitive dynamics among benthic taxa and alter community structure.
A second Scripps team, led by Stuart Sandin, has interests that are centered on predator/prey dynamics and how those dynamics shape the coral reef community.
Together, these three groups have investigated, and will continue to investigate, the biogeochemical processes which shape coral reef ecosystems, spanning spatial scales from microns to thousands of kilometers.
By creating a comprehensive Collection, the research teams hope to demonstrate some of the implications that result from considering coral reef microbiology on a new scale - something which may help others to see these findings in their broader context.