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MEPS 597:65-77 (2018)  -  DOI:

Erect macroalgae influence epilithic bacterial assemblages and reduce coral recruitment

Fabio Bulleri1,2,*, Lauric Thiault3,4,5,6, Suzanne C. Mills4,7, Maggy M. Nugues4,7, Ester M. Eckert8, Gianluca Corno8, Joachim Claudet3,4

1Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Pisa, Via Derna 1, 56126 Pisa, Italy
2CoNISMa, Piazzale Flaminio 9, 00196 Roma, Italy
3National Center for Scientific Research, PSL Université Paris, CRIOBE, USR 3278 CNRS-EPHE-UPVD, 195 rue Saint-Jacques, 75005 Paris, France
4Laboratoire d’Excellence ‘CORAIL’, 66860 Perpignan, France
5Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, PALOC, UMR 208 MNHN-IRD, 75231 Paris, France
6Center of Applied Ecology and Sustainability, Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
7PSL Université Paris: EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR 3278 CRIOBE BP 1013, 98729 Papetoai, Moorea, French Polynesia
8Microbial Ecology Group (MEG), National Research Council - Institute of Ecosystem Study (CNR-ISE), Largo Tonolli, 50. 28922, Verbania, Italy
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Macroalgal competition can indirectly influence the health of corals and their response to changing environmental conditions by altering their associated bacterial community. However, the effect of macroalgae on the composition of epilithic microbial biofilms, an important determinant of coral recruitment, is poorly known. In the back-reefs of Moorea (French Polynesia), we evaluated how the experimental removal of either the canopy of the seaweed Turbinaria ornata or that of the entire macroalgal assemblage influenced the composition of the bacterial biofilm and coral recruitment on macroalga-free substrata. The number of bacterial colonies on culture plates inoculated with dilutions of 9 d old biofilm from canopy removal sites was smaller compared with control sites. After 3.5 mo, the diversity of bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) was lower at both canopy and total macroalgal removal sites. Total macroalgal removal sites had a lower relative abundance of several bacterial families, including Rhodobacteraceae, Erythrobacteraceae, Cyanobacteria Family IV and Family VIII, Flavobacteriaceae and Verrucomicrobiaceae. After 8 mo, coral recruitment was generally low, but greater at total macroalgal removal sites. The relative abundance of Cyanobacteria, Sphingobacteria and Verrucomicrobia was negatively correlated with coral recruitment and explained ~70% of variation in coral recruit density. Our study shows that the removal of T. ornata and understory macroalgae influences the composition of epilithic bacterial assemblages and coral recruitment. Thus, eradication campaigns are unlikely to sustain long-term reductions in the abundance of T. ornata and, hence, increase coral recruitment, when plant holdfasts and understory macroalgae are left in place.

KEY WORDS: Coral reefs · Macroalgae · Turbinaria ornata · Epilithic bacterial biofilms · Coral recruitment · French Polynesia

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Cite this article as: Bulleri F, Thiault L, Mills SC, Nugues MM, Eckert EM, Corno G, Claudet J (2018) Erect macroalgae influence epilithic bacterial assemblages and reduce coral recruitment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 597:65-77.

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