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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 86:115-136 (2021)  -  DOI:

Microbial ecology of coral-dominated reefs in the Federated States of Micronesia

Amy Apprill1,*, Henry Holm1,2, Alyson E. Santoro3, Cynthia Becker1,2, Matthew Neave1,6, Konrad Hughen1, Angela Richards Donà4, Greta Aeby4, Thierry Work5, Laura Weber1, Sean McNally1,7

1Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
2MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science & Engineering, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
3Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
4University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
5National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station, U.S. Geological Survey, Honolulu, HI 96850, USA
6Present address: Australian Animal Health Laboratory, CSIRO, Geelong, VIC 3219, Australia
7Present address: School for the Environment, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA 02125, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Microorganisms are central to the functioning of coral reef ecosystems, but their dynamics are unstudied on most reefs. We examined the microbial ecology of shallow reefs within the Federated States of Micronesia. We surveyed 20 reefs surrounding 7 islands and atolls (Yap, Woleai, Olimarao, Kosrae, Kapingamarangi, Nukuoro, and Pohnpei), spanning 875053 km2. On the reefs, we found consistently higher coral coverage (mean ± SD = 36.9 ± 22.2%; max 77%) compared to macroalgae coverage (15.2 ± 15.5%; max 58%), and low abundances of fish. Reef waters had low inorganic nutrient concentrations and were dominated by Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, and SAR11 bacteria. The richness of bacterial and archaeal communities was significantly related to interactions between island/atoll and depth. High coral coverage on reefs was linked to higher relative abundances of Flavobacteriaceae, Leisingera, Owenweeksia, Vibrio, and the OM27 clade, as well as other heterotrophic bacterial groups, consistent with communities residing in waters near corals and within coral mucus. Microbial community structure at reef depth was significantly correlated with geographic distance, suggesting that island biogeography influences reef microbial communities. Reefs at Kosrae Island, which hosted the highest coral abundance and diversity, were unique compared to other locations; seawater from Kosrae reefs had the lowest organic carbon (59.8-67.9 µM), highest organic nitrogen (4.5-5.3 µM), and harbored consistent microbial communities (>85% similar), which were dominated by heterotrophic cells. This study suggests that the reef-water microbial ecology on Micronesian reefs is influenced by the density and diversity of corals as well as other biogeographical features.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef · Microbiology · Micronesia · Oligotrophic · Cyanobacteria · SSU rRNA gene

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Cite this article as: Apprill A, Holm H, Santoro AE, Becker C and others (2021) Microbial ecology of coral-dominated reefs in the Federated States of Micronesia. Aquat Microb Ecol 86:115-136.

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