MEPS 357:139-151 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07403

Major bulk dissolved organic carbon (DOC) removal by encrusting coral reef cavity sponges

Jasper M. de Goeij1,3,*, Herbert van den Berg1,3, Martine M. van Oostveen1,3, Eric H. G. Epping2, Fleur C. van Duyl1

1Department of Biological Oceanography, and 2Department of Marine Chemistry & Geology, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
3The CARMABI Foundation, Caribbean Research & Management of Biodiversity, PO Box 2090, Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles

ABSTRACT: We studied the removal of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and bacterioplankton by the encrusting sponges Halisarca caerulea, Mycale microsigmatosa and Merlia normani in coral reefs along Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Sponge specimens were collected from coral reef cavities and incubations were done on the fore-reef slope at 12 m depth. The concentrations of DOC and bacterioplankton carbon (BC) were monitored in situ, using incubation chambers with sponges and without sponges (incubations with coral rock or ambient reef water only). Average (±SD) DOC removal rates (in µmol C cm–3 sponge h–1) amounted to 13.1 ± 2.5, 15.2 ± 0.9 and 13.6 ± 2.4 for H. caerula, M. microsigmatosa and M. normani, respectively. The DOC removal rates by the 3 sponges were on average 2 orders of magnitude higher than BC removal rates and accounted for more than 90% of the total organic carbon removal. Total organic carbon removal rates presented here were the highest ever reported for sponges. In an additional experiment with H. caerulea, the fate of organic carbon was reconstructed by measuring dissolved oxygen (O2) removal and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) release in a laminar flow chamber. H. caerulea respired 39 to 45% of the organic carbon removed. The remaining 55 to 61% of carbon is expected to be assimilated. We argue that H. caerulea may have a rapid turnover of matter. All 3 sponge species contained associated bacteria, but it is unclear to what extent the associated bacteria are involved in the nutrition of the sponge. We conclude that the 3 sponge–microbe associations are (related to the availability of dissolved and particulate carbon sources in the ambient water) ‘dissolved organic matter (DOM)-feeders’ and encrusting sponges are of quantitative importance in the removal of DOC in coral reef cavities.


KEY WORDS: DOC · Sponges · Nutrition · Carbon budget · Nutrient cycling · Coral reef · Reef framework cavities · Caribbean · Curaçao


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Cite this article as: de Goeij JM, van den Berg H, van Oostveen MM, Epping EHG, van Duyl FC (2008) Major bulk dissolved organic carbon (DOC) removal by encrusting coral reef cavity sponges. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 357:139-151. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07403

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