• High salinity tolerance of the Red Sea coral Fungia granulosa under desalination concentrate discharge conditions: an in situ photophysiology experiment.

      van der Merwe, Riaan; Röthig, Till; Voolstra, Christian R.; Ochsenkühn, Michael A.; Lattemann, Sabine; Amy, Gary L.; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) (Frontiers, 2014-11-10)
      Seawater reverse osmosis desalination concentrate may have chronic and/or acute impacts on the marine ecosystems in the near-field area of the discharge. Environmental impact of the desalination plant discharge is supposedly site- and volumetric- specific, and also depends on the salinity tolerance of the organisms inhabiting the water column in and around a discharge environment. Scientific studies that aim to understand possible impacts of elevated salinity levels are important to assess detrimental effects to organisms, especially for species with no mechanism of osmoregulation, e.g., presumably corals. Previous studies on corals indicate sensitivity toward hypo- and hyper-saline environments with small changes in salinity already affecting coral physiology. In order to evaluate sensitivity of Red Sea corals to increased salinity levels, we conducted a long-term (29 days) in situ salinity tolerance transect study at an offshore seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) discharge on the coral Fungia granulosa. While we measured a pronounced increase in salinity and temperature at the direct outlet of the discharge structure, effects were indistinguishable from the surrounding environment at a distance of 5 m. Interestingly, corals were not affected by varying salinity levels as indicated by measurements of the photosynthetic efficiency. Similarly, cultured coral symbionts of the genus Symbiodinium displayed remarkable tolerance levels in regard to hypo- and hypersaline treatments. Our data suggest that increased salinity and temperature levels from discharge outlets wear off quickly in the surrounding environment. Furthermore, F. granulosa seem to tolerate levels of salinity that are distinctively higher than reported for other corals previously. It remains to be determined whether Red Sea corals in general display increased salinity tolerance, and whether this is related to prevailing levels of high(er) salinity in the Red Sea in comparison to other oceans.
    • Long-term salinity tolerance is accompanied by major restructuring of the coral bacterial microbiome.

      Röthig, Till; Ochsenkühn, Michael A.; Roik, Anna; van der Merwe, Riaan; Voolstra, Christian R.; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Red Sea Research Center; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Thuwal 23955-6900 Saudi Arabia; Biological and Organometallic Catalysis Laboratories; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Thuwal 23955-6900 Saudi Arabia; Red Sea Research Center; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Thuwal 23955-6900 Saudi Arabia; Red Sea Research Center; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Thuwal 23955-6900 Saudi Arabia; et al. (Wiley., 2016-02-03)
      Scleractinian corals are assumed to be stenohaline osmoconformers, although they are frequently subjected to variations in seawater salinity due to precipitation, freshwater run-off and other processes. Observed responses to altered salinity levels include differences in photosynthetic performance, respiration and increased bleaching and mortality of the coral host and its algal symbiont, but a study looking at bacterial community changes is lacking. Here, we exposed the coral Fungia granulosa to strongly increased salinity levels in short- and long-term experiments to disentangle temporal and compartment effects of the coral holobiont (i.e. coral host, symbiotic algae and associated bacteria). Our results show a significant reduction in calcification and photosynthesis, but a stable microbiome after short-term exposure to high-salinity levels. By comparison, long-term exposure yielded unchanged photosynthesis levels and visually healthy coral colonies indicating long-term acclimation to high-salinity levels that were accompanied by a major coral microbiome restructuring. Importantly, a bacterium in the family Rhodobacteraceae was succeeded by Pseudomonas veronii as the numerically most abundant taxon. Further, taxonomy-based functional profiling indicates a shift in the bacterial community towards increased osmolyte production, sulphur oxidation and nitrogen fixation. Our study highlights that bacterial community composition in corals can change within days to weeks under altered environmental conditions, where shifts in the microbiome may enable adjustment of the coral to a more advantageous holobiont composition.
    • The role of floridoside in osmoadaptation of coral-associated algal endosymbionts to high-salinity conditions.

      Ochsenkühn, Michael A.; Röthig, Till; D’Angelo, Cecilia; Wiedenmann, Jörg; Voolstra, Christian R.; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); University of Southampton; New York University Abu Dhabi (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2017-08-16)
      The endosymbiosis between Symbiodinium dinoflagellates and stony corals provides the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. The survival of these ecosystems is under threat at a global scale, and better knowledge is needed to conceive strategies for mitigating future reef loss. Environmental disturbance imposing temperature, salinity, and nutrient stress can lead to the loss of the Symbiodinium partner, causing so-called coral bleaching. Some of the most thermotolerant coral-Symbiodinium associations occur in the Persian/Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea, which also represent the most saline coral habitats. We studied whether Symbiodinium alter their metabolite content in response to high-salinity environments. We found that Symbiodinium cells exposed to high salinity produced high levels of the osmolyte 2-O-glycerol-α-d-galactopyranoside (floridoside), both in vitro and in their coral host animals, thereby increasing their capacity and, putatively, the capacity of the holobiont to cope with the effects of osmotic stress in extreme environments. Given that floridoside has been previously shown to also act as an antioxidant, this osmolyte may serve a dual function: first, to serve as a compatible organic osmolyte accumulated by Symbiodinium in response to elevated salinities and, second, to counter reactive oxygen species produced as a consequence of potential salinity and heat stress.