AIMS @ ICRS


RV Solander

The Australian Institute of Marine Science is proud to co-sponsor the International Coral Reef Symposium.

List of AIMS Participants

Mr John Gunn, AIMS CEO

Dr Line Bay

Dr Emmanuelle  Botté

Dr David Bourne

Dr Tim Clark

Dr Terry Done

Dr Walt Dunlap

Libby Evans-Illidge

Dr Katharina Fabricius

Dr Michelle Heupel

Dr Ross Jones

Dr Janice Lough

Dr Kathy Morrow

Dr Andrew Negri

Dr Jamie Oliver

Dr Britta Schaffelke

Dr Sven Uthicke

 

Dr Madeleine van Oppen

Established in 1972, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) was one of the first marine science agencies to study the Great Barrier Reef. Over the last 40 years, our wide-ranging program of research and strategic investments in broad scale monitoring and coastal ecology has provided AIMS with unparalleled insights into the suite of changes that have occurred, and continue to occur, in this complex ecosystem. While we continue to work on the Great Barrier Reef, the Institute's remit, research focus and geographic horizons, have grown significantly over the last twenty years, and AIMS is now well established as "Australia's tropical marine research agency".

Our unique capacity to investigate topics ranging from microbiology to broad-scale ecology, utilising a modern research fleet and highly specialised facilities, world-renown staff and well developed national and international partnerships, has secured the Institute's position as a global leader in tropical marine science.

John Gunn

John Gunn is the Chief Executive Officer of AIMS.  John has significant experience in leading development of strategy, scientific research and capability, and stakeholder engagement across a research portfolio encompassing marine ecology, fisheries, coastal systems, physical and chemical oceanography, atmospheric chemistry and climate science.  John joined AIMS from the position of Chief Scientist of the Australian Antarctic Program, where he played a key role in developing the new Australian Antarctic Science Strategy Plan: 2011 – 2021.  Prior to this, John was Deputy Chief of CSIRO's Marine and Atmospheric Research Division, the culmination of 29 year career with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

John has held a number of important advisory and policy development roles through his membership of the Scientific Steering Committee for the Global Ocean Observing System, the Australian Academy of Science National Committee for Antarctic Research, the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co‐Operative Research Centre Board, the Oceans Policy Science Advisory Group (OPSAG), the Commonwealth Government's High Level Coordination Group on Climate Change Science, and Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System Board.

Alongside his executive experience, John has an extensive academic record. Having graduated from James Cook University, Townsville in 1978 with a first class honours in marine biology, John has authored over 150 peer-review publications, book chapters, papers to international commissions and technical reports, and has presented at more than 100 conferences and symposia, in many instances as the keynote speaker. He has an international reputation in the fields of pelagic fish ecology and in the development of marine biological observing technology and systems.

Having worked within and led a number of world-leading, multidisciplinary teams and programs, John is a passionate advocate for science, and in particular marine science, and its role in securing a prosperous and sustainable future for Australia.  While addressing the needs and demands of a broad user community, he is determined to maintain and further enhance the scientific excellence for which AIMS has gained an enviable international reputation.

Dr Line Bay

Dr Line Bay. Originally from Denmark, Line moved to Australia in the early 1990's to pursue a career in coral reef science and obtained a PhD in population genetics of coral reef fishes from James Cook University in 2006. After a brief period of teaching evolutionary genetics, Line became a joint ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and AIMS Postdoctoral Fellow in 2007, and was later supported in this role by a Queensland Government Smart State Fellowship (2008 – 10). Line joined the Australian Institute of Marine Science as a Research Scientist in 2011 where she is currently based in the Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Team. Line maintains broad research interests in coral reef ecology and evolution. Her primary research uses physiological, genetic and genomic data to understand how corals interact with their environment. In particular, she is interested in understanding the rates and mechanisms of physiological adaptation, and the potential for genetic adaptation in response to climate and ocean change.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Genetic and environmental sources of physiological and transcriptomic plasticity

Bay, Line, Aurelie Guerescheau, Ray Berkelmans, Nikolaus Andreakis, Petra Souter, Madeleine van Oppen

Australian Institute of Marine Science

The persistence of coral dominated reef ecosystems in the face of climate change relies heavily on the ability of hard corals to increase their physiological tolerance through acclimatisation and adaptation. Experiments that reciprocally expose populations to different environmental conditions can reveal the rate of acclimatization and quantify a genetic basis to traits required for adaptive evolution to occur. Here we explore the transcriptomic changes that occurred during a field based reciprocal transplantation experiment in the genomic model coral species Acropora millepora. We describe the genetic and environmental sources of variation in growth, physiological condition (total protein, carbohydrate and lipid content, symbiont density) and gene expression among populations separated by 1.5 degrees of latitude. Lastly, we discuss correlations among physiological and gene expression traits to identify the mechanisms that underpin the very large variation observed in coral growth.

Dr Emmanuelle S. Botté

Dr Emmanuelle S. Botté: My background is in molecular biology and biochemistry. I've completed  my PhD in fish ecotoxicology early this year. During my PhD I investigated the impacts of pesticide exposure and thermal stress on coral reef fish, both at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. I'm currently working as a laboratory technician at AIMS, mainly looking at the effects of stress on sponges, corals and other marine invertebrates and on bacterial communities living in symbiosis with sponges and corals. My broad interest is to understand the response of marine organisms to environmental stress by using molecular tools.

Abstract: Emmanuelle Botté1-2, Dean Jerry1, Carolyn Smith-Keune1, Andrew Negri2

1AIMS@JCU, School of Marine and Tropical Biology and Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

2Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Inshore reefs are currently facing multiple stressors, including increasing pollution and ocean warming. To better understand these impacts on reef fish physiology, juveniles of the damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus were exposed to a) the widely-used insecticide chlorpyrifos (CPF); b) environmentally relevant temperature increase; c) the combination of both stressors. The functioning of the nervous system was evaluated with measurements of cholinesterase (ChE) activity, oxidative stress was assessed with measurements of the coenzyme Q (CoQ) redox balance and detoxification pathways with glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activity. Expression patterns of stress-responsive genes (GST, Catalase, Heat-Shock Protein 90 and Elongation Factor 1 alpha) were also investigated.   

After 96 h of exposure, fish exposed to 1, 10 or 100 µg/L CPF exhibited a 26%, 49% and 53% muscle ChE activity inhibition respectively, while temperature induced a drastic and so far unreported 50% decrease in ChE activity in fish exposed to 32°C, compared to 28°C. CoQ redox balance was shifted towards its antioxidant form after 6 h of exposure to 10 µg/L, but showed a decrease in fish exposed to 34°C compared to 28°C in the early stages of exposure. Simultaneous exposure to both stressors revealed no interaction of the two stressors, but induced a general shutdown of transcription after 6 h of exposure to 10 µg/L CPF. Overall, our results indicate that CPF and temperature both impair the functioning of a key neural enzyme and induce a response to oxidative stress, while the combination of stressors profoundly affects the molecular processes in A. polyacanthus.

Back to List of Participants

Dr David Bourne

Dr David Bourne is a Research Scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. He has been involved in a number of research themes at AIMS including marine microbes for drug discovery and the microbial dynamics in aquaculture (Rock Lobster) larval rearing systems. More recently his work is solely focused on understanding microbial interactions with corals. This work is divided essentially into two areas, the first investigating the normal microbial communities associated with corals and their functional roles in maintaining coral fitness. The second research focus is to elucidate pathogens and mechanism of disease onset in corals and the implications this has on a stressed reef ecosystem in light of climate change being a major driver of coral reef degradation.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Photosynthetic symbiosis drives bacterial associations in Great Barrier Reef invertebrates

David G. Bourne1*, Paul G Dennis2, Sven Uthicke1, Rochelle M. Soo1, Gene Tyson2, Nicole Webster1

1Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.

2Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, The University of Queensland, Australia.

Coral reefs are habitat for an array of marine invertebrates that host symbiotic microbial communities. This study applied a 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing approach to investigate the bacterial diversity of 16 common GBR marine invertebrate species.  Samples represented 5 different invertebrate families and included both photosymbiont hosting species (Symbiodinium and diatom symbionts) and non-photosymbiont bearing (or symbiont barren) species. All samples were dominated by Proteobacteria, though the composition of microbial communities differed between invertebrate species with and without photosymbionts as assessed by a transformed distance-based-RDAand PERMANOVA(P <0.001). Dominant sequence tags in the photosymbiont bearing invertebrates were affiliated with Spongiobacteria which has previously been implicated in the metabolism of the abundant organic sulfur compound DMSP in corals. Non-photosymbiont invertebrates were dominated by a number of sequences including Sphingobacteria affiliates. Species richness, equitability and phylogenetic tree branch length did not differ between invertebrate species with and without photosymbiont partners (P > 0.05; linear regression). This indicates that the number of species, evenness and phylogenetic dispersal in the microbial community (Alpha-diversity) was not influenced by the presence or absence of symbiont, however the species composition (Beta-diversity) was. This study highlights the complex nature of invertebrate holobionts and confirms the importance of photosymbionts in structuring invertebrate-associated bacterial communities.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Tim Clark

Dr Tim Clark: I utilise physiological measurements to examine aspects of animal ecology, evolution and conservation. Working primarily with fishes, a key interest is in the capacity and regulation of the cardiorespiratory system when faced with environmental perturbations. This is particularly pertinent in the current era of climate change, where fishes increasingly encounter sub- or supra-optimal conditions of temperature, pH, salinity and oxygen. My research encompasses lab- and field-based physiology, biologging and biotelemetry, with an underlying goal to understand the eco-physiology of fishes and determine their capacity to adapt to future climates.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Cardiorespiratory physiology and energetics of reef fishes

Reef fishes are experiencing a changing environment. Water temperatures are progressively increasing in many locations around the world, and the oceans are becoming more acidic. While much research focuses on the role of coral health and reef structure in determining the resilience of reef fishes to climate change, little is known of the direct impacts of temperature and acidification on fish populations. Indeed, it is possible that some fish species will prove less resilient to climate change than the corals that surround them. This presentation outlines how climate change directly influences the physiology of reef fishes and thus their capacity to function and survive. Using large (coral trout) and small (pomacentrids) species as models, this presentation highlights how a fundamental process – oxygen transport from the environment to the tissues of the body – may underlie interspecific differences in resilience to environmental change.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Terry Done

Dr Terry Done (AIMS Associate) has a track record with ICRS, having, as President of the International Society for Reef Studies (1999-2002) worked with Indonesian counterparts and David Hopley to fashion the program for Indonesia's Ninth ICRS 2000 in Bali.  Terry's main contributions to coral reef science so far (>70 peer reviewed papers with JCU (1975-1980) and AIMS (1980-2007)) have been the publication of pioneering studies on variability in coral community structure across the Great Barrier Reef (1982), on resilience in Porites populations under periodic predation by crown-of-thorns starfish (1987 – winner of the first ‘Best Paper Award' for the journal Coral Reefs), on ‘phase shifts' in coral reef communities (1992), on evaluation of coral communities based on their replacement times and composition (1995), on aspects of global climate change (1999; 2006) and on benchmark rates for recovery of damaged coral reef communities (2010). In the management sphere, as a member of a scientific advisory panel for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2000-2003) he was very influential in the delineation of about forty reef bioregions and of biophysical operational principals that led to the current disposition of no-take areas across the Great Barrier Reef, a pattern that spreads risk of damage and thus maximise the prospects for resilience in the Reef's ecological systems. Terry spent a year in Indonesia (2005-6) working with COREMAP on their Coral Reef Information and Training Centres program.  Since finishing with AIMS in 2007, Terry has continued collaborations and student supervising through AIMS, UQ, SCU, JCU and the Queensland Museum and was an editor of, and major contributor to, Hopley's ‘Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs' (2011).  He occasionally gives guest lectures on small coastal cruise ships on the Great Barrier Reef and the Kimberley coast, he is the Science Director for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's ZooX Ambassadors Program, and he is on the Board of Reef Check Australia.  His publications are listed at http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/do/extsearch.do?author=done&initials=t

Abstract:  ICRS 2012  Session 11A

Second order ecological implications of climate change for coral communities

Terry Done, AIMS

Direct detrimental consequences of increased frequency of heatwaves, more severe cyclones and reduced calcification have been speculated upon in the coral reef – climate change literature for over a decade.  Whereas affects on individual coral colonies (viz. density; linear extension rates) have received much attention, there has been much less analysis on likely affects on coral populations (survivorship) and communities. Here, with a focus on coral populations and communities, I examine interrelationships among several key variables being affected by warming seas and reduced calcification rates: linear extension and density of individual corals; return intervals for heatwaves and destructive waves; intervals between outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS). Drawing on studies of geographic variability in coral community recovery following cyclones and COTS impacts, I investigate effects of reduced performance (individual and population growth) on the time taken for recovering coral populations to reach key size and percent cover thresholds of vulnerability to waves and COTS.  ‘Recoverability' site attributes (viz. propagule supply and survival schedules) appear to vary systematically according to the geographic disposition of the meta-community in which the reef is located, and the site's location on the reef (reef flat or slope, shallow or deep, wave-exposed or sheltered).

Anthropogenic climate change poses a serious threat to coral reefs both as physical entities ­per se, and to the ecological services they provide to humans: habitats for both fishery stocks and the Earth's greatest richness and density of marine species; the very ground and freshwater of many small inhabited islands; the protection of shorelines and the provision of sheltered anchorages.  However while the generic mechanisms by which reef-building organisms are threatened by rising temperatures and falling pH have been clearly articulated for over a decade, their propagation to the organizational level of populations and communities has been less so.   Individual corals have finite life expectancies, and their < 1% by weight of soft tissues decomposes and contributes to reef and ocean productivity upon death.  Their > 99% inorganic component (limestone skeletons) may persist for anything from decades to millennia in reef framework and sedimentary pools (rubble and sand of lagoon floors and islands). 

There are fluxes in the standing calcimass of living and non-living pools that are manifest at all ecologically and geologically significant scales. Daily, changes in mass of individual corals are a net result of accumulation through growth and losses through biological erosion, finer fractions becoming refractory suspended limestone that often clouds reef waters, coarser fractions falling to the lagoon floor or into interstitial spaces of the reef framework, both fractions subject to transport within or from the reef by currents.   Annual fluxes may simply be the sum of daily fluxes, but there is always a chance, albeit small in any given year, that a major episodic event would cause a rapid transition (days to months) of limestone from living to dead pools over areas measure in hectares and above.  Examples are storm waves strong enough to break or dislodge corals, flood plumes, predator outbreaks, diseases, and, increasingly as climate changes, lethal bleaching events caused by high sea temperatures.   Globally, these are not uniformly applicable events in coral reef regions, the probability of specific types of hectare and above impacts ranging from zero (regardless of time interval) to inevitable, given sufficient time. 

Time to vulnerability of individual corals to waves of a particular force will depend on whether reduced calcification is manifest as reduced density, reduced linear extension or both.  Return intervals between waves of a particular force.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Walt Dunlap

Dr Walt Dunlap (AIMS Visitor) is an environmental biochemist with more than 30 years of research experience and a world leader in the photophysiology and redox biochemistry of marine organisms. His contemporary research has progressed by collaboration with international partners to examine the complex metaproteogenomic response of reef-building corals to environmental stress. In addition to environmental biochemistry, he has pursued applications of marine natural products to achieve commercial objectives in marine biotechnology for the development of novel marine-derived drugs and healthcare products. An applied systems biology approach is being used to examine the functional biology of marine symbioses at multiple molecular levels, including:

·       Molecular processes regulating the metabolic maintenance, environmental stress dysfunction and recovery in coral symbioses
·       Gene transfer between partner organisms and dependence of "shared metabolic functions" in the coral symbiotic holobiome.
·       Chemical ecology of secondary metabolite production by the microbial consortia of tropical marine organisms.

Dr Dunlap is now an Honorary Professor in the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at King's College London and is working in semi-retirement as a Visiting Scientist to AIMS.

Abstract: Prokaryote vs Eukaryote Biosynthesis of Mycosporines and Mycosporine-like Amino Acids

Walter C. Dunlap1, Edward M. Spence2, J. Malcolm Shick3 and Paul F. Long2

1Centre for Marine Microbiology and Genetics, Australian Institute of Marine Science
2Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, King's College London
3School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine

The assumption that coral/algal mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) originate from the shikimic acid pathway stems from specific uptake of the shikimate intermediate [U-14C]3-dehydroquinic acid (DHQ) in biosynthesis of the MAA-related, fungal mycosporines,[1] a pathway demonstrated empirically also in the cyanobacterium Chlorogloeopsissp.[2]Recently, MAA biosynthesis has been elucidated in the cyanobacteria Anabaena[3] andNostoc,[4] which utilise the precursor sedoheptulose 7-phosphate (SH 7-P) derived from the pentose phosphate pathway rather than 3-deoxy-D-arabinoheptulosinate 7-phosphate (DAHP) of the shikimate pathway. The key enzyme of the pentose phosphate pathway, 2-epi-5-epi-valiolone synthase (EVS), is strikingly similar to 3-dehydroquinate synthase (DHQS) of the shikimate pathway, both enzymes being homologs of the same cyclase superfamily.[5] We now reveal UV-induction of MAA biosynthesis in an EVS-null mutant, which implicates the existence of parallel MAA biosynthetic pathways in Anabaena. EVS encoding genes were found also in the coral Acropora digitifera[6] and the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis,[7] yet the anemone does not appear to produce MAAs (Shick et al., unpublished). Although not validated experimentally, we have identified by UV induction hypothetical genes for MAA biosynthesis in the holobiome of the coral Acropora microphthalma.[8] Post-DHQ biosynthetic enzymes appear encoded in the coral DNA, which is exceptional because its dinoflagellate endosymbiont does not produce MAAs in culture. We posit that acroporid corals have acquired MAA biosynthetic genes by transfer from their dinoflagellate partner followed by deletion from its source genome in a pathway yet to be validated in an anthozoan.

[1]doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)83866-2; [2]doi:10.2216/i0031-8884-42-4-384.1;
3]doi:10.1126/science.1193637;[4]doi:10.1128/JB.05730-11;
[5]doi:10.1002/cbic.200600446;[6]doi:10.1038/nature10249;
[7]doi:10.1073/pnas.0707388105; [8]doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013975

Back to List of Participants

Libby Evans-Illidge

Libby Evans-Illidge. For the past 30 years Libby has enjoyed a diverse marine science career which has blended the doing of research with policy development, science uptake and commercialisation, stakeholder engagement and collaboration, and research management.  Her early career began at AIMS in the field of reef sponge biology and chemical ecology.  She then co-founded a small business to do marine research in Torres Strait, in a range of fields including fisheries, seagrass and other benthic research, as well as the Torres Strait Baseline Study which assessed potential contamination of the marine environment and seafood species with heavy metals from mining activities in Papua New Guinea.  One of the most satisfying aspects of this period came from the opportunity to work with Torres Strait communities on issues of relevance to Torres Strait islanders.

Since Libby joined AIMS in 1994, her role has included leadership of sponge biology and aquaculture research, management of Australia's largest and most comprehensive marine bioresources library, and most recently, the Research Director role with AIMS@JCU.  Work on biodiscovery and the AIMS Bioresources Library has incorporated negotiation and management of contracts that facilitate access to the bioresources library for biodiscovery research, and benefit sharing agreements with resource management jurisdictions in Australia.  She has participated in numerous policy development forums on access and benefit sharing, both nationally and internationally, including with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the development of new domestic policy and legislation in Australia.  She also maintains active research interests in aquaculture as a production method for bioactive compounds and biomaterials, and her research has underpinned the establishment of Australia's first sponge farm with an indigenous community in Torres Strait.

Abstract:

Patterns in Australian marine bioactivity: are coral reefs bioactivity hot spots?

 

Evans-Illidge, Elizabeth1, Murray Logan1, Lyndon Llewellyn1, Jason Doyle1, David Abdo1, Jane Fromont2, Christopher Battershill1,3, Carsten Wolff1,4, Andrew Muirhead1, Gavin Ericson1

e.evansillidge@aims.gov.au

1Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia

2Western Australian Museum, Australia

3University of Waikato, New Zealand

4National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

 

Twenty-five years of Australian marine biodiscovery research with the AIMS Bioresources Library has explored biodiversity collected from the breadth of Australia's ocean territory including latitudinally and longitudinally diverse coral reefs. The resulting, immense database, integrates biodiversity with bioactivity data, and this was mined to retrospectively assess biogeographic, taxonomic and phylogenetic patterns in cytotoxic, antiinfective,

and CNS-protective bioactivity. While the bioassays used were originally chosen to be indicative of pharmaceutically relevant bioactivity, the results have been cautiously interpreted with respect to the ecological significance of secondary metabolism, in the context of ecological parallels between the bioassay system and marine chemical ecology, and the issue of scale. In general,Metazoan Phyla along the Deuterostome phylogenetic pathway (e.g. Bryozoa,Echonodermata and leading to Chordata) and their ancestors (e.g. Porifera, Cnidaria) had higher percentages of highly active samples in the assays examined. While taxonomy and phylogeny helped explain observed trends, the results did not support the presence of any overall biogeographic

bioactivity hot spots. Further analysis and discussion explored the hypothesis that after phylogeny and therefore the metabolic machineryavailable to an organism, habitat diversity and ecological circumstance are the major drivers in the activation of this machinery and actual bioactivese condary metabolism. This presentation is

dedicated to the memory of Dr Peter Murphy, pioneer of modern marine biodiscovery, and founder of the AIMS Bioresources Library.

Dr Katharina Fabricius

Dr Katharina Fabricius is a coral reef ecologist, and works as Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. She received her PhD from the University of Munich in 1995 for her work on the ecology of octocorals of the Great Barrier Reef and Red Sea. Since then, she has investigated how large-scale disturbances from climate change and terrestrial runoff affect the biodiversity and ecological functions of coral reefs. With her collaborators she has developed indicators to monitor changes in coral reefs attributable to changing water quality. She has also shed new light on the long-standing conundrum of what limits populations of the notorious coral eating crown-of-thorns starfish. More recently, Katharina has shifted her research to the urgent question of ocean acidification. She discovered cool volcanic CO2 seep sites in Papua New Guinea, where coral reefs have been exposed to predicted end-of-century CO2 levels for at least 70 years, and possibly much longer. She uses these sites as a natural laboratory and a window into the future to better understand whether and how organisms and ecosystems can acclimatize and adapt to long-term exposure to high CO2. Katharina has published over 90 publications in international peer-reviewed journals, and the first comprehensive book and field guide on Indo-Pacific soft corals and sea fans.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Tropical CO2 seeps: Ecological adaptations and processes at elevated CO2

Katharina Fabricius1, Sven Uthicke1, Craig Humphrey1, Sam Noonan1, Chris Langdon2, Dirk DeBeer3, Jason Hall-Spencer4, Bayden Russell5, Stephanie Reynaud6, Glenn De'ath, Janice Lough1

1 Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia
2 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA.
3) Max-Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany
4) Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK
5) School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, DX 650 418, University of Adelaide,
South Australia 5005, Australia
6) Centre Scientifique de Monaco, Av. Saint Martin, 98000 Monaco

Three CO2 seeps in eastern Papua New Guinea were used to assess the effects of long-term exposure to elevated CO2 on natural coral reef and seagrass communities. Bubble streams of almost pure CO2 have exposed these reefs to elevated CO2 for at least 70 years. Reefs persist in the zone where pH is reduced from 8.1 (ambient) to 7.8 units (seawater temperatures are not altered measurably in this zone). However these reefs show substantially reduced diversity, structural complexity and coral juvenile densities. We highlight some of the ecological results from work at these sites, quantify changes along the three gradients in seawater carbonate chemistry, and contrast ecological functions of coral reefs exposed to high CO2 with those of control sites. We also contrast direct effects of elevated CO2 on biota with indirect effects, derived from loss in structural complexity. Finally, we present some data on the combined effects of high CO2 and heat stress on corals. This study suggests that ocean acidification alone will lead to profound changes in the ecology of coral reefs throughout this century, and that the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs will be exacerbated by increasing seawater temperatures.

Key Words: ocean acidification, ecological adaptation, acclimatisation

Back to List of Participants

Dr Michelle Heupel

Dr Michelle Heupel is a current ARC Future Fellow through the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University.  She is a marine ecologist focusing her research on the biology and ecology of marine predators, primarily sharks and rays. Her research has produced 5 book chapters, 9 technical reports and over 60 journal publications. Dr Heupel has previously served as Research Director for the AIMS@JCU joint venture and Manager of the Elasmobranch Behavioral Ecology Program at Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida, USA. She has served on numerous committees and societies and has been an active member of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group since 2001. She has served as an international expert on several research and conservation panels. She is also a Subject Editor for Marine and Coastal Fisheries and a Review Editor for Aquatic Biology.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Coral reefs: apex predator paradise or mesopredator nirvana?

MR Heupel1, CA Simpfendorfer2, NK Dulvy3

1 Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University, Townsville, Qld

2 Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld

3 Earth to Ocean Research Group, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada

The role of predators has been well defined within terrestrial literature but the criteria applied to those definitions are rarely transferred to marine systems. Thus sharks are often described as apex predators regardless of whether they meet the characteristics of this designation. Accurate description of the predatory role of a species has direct implications for understanding the role of that predator within the system. For example, apex predators exert acute, top down control while mesopredators provide more diffuse impacts. Reductions in these two different types of predation can cause different effects within an ecosystem. Exploitation of apex predators has been shown to cause mesopredator release in terrestrial systems which have ecosystem level consequences while loss of mesopredators plays a less significant role. Indeed all of this is complicated by ontogenetic diet shifts widespread among the indeterminate life histories of the species that dominate aquatic ecosystems. Here we consider coral reefs as a case study for predation effects by shark species within the context of apex and mesopredators. The implications of fishing effects and marine protected zones will be discussed within the context of reef ecosystems and the role of sharks as predators within these environments.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Ross Jones

Dr Ross Jones: I completed my PhD at James Cook University (1992-1996), and then postdoctoral fellowships at The University of Sydney (ARC fellowship 1996-2000) and at The University of Queensland (ARC-Industry fellowship 2000-2004). During these periods, I researched the response of the coral-algal symbiosis to altered environmental conditions including heat, light and osmotic stress, and in response to xenobiotics such as herbicides, copper, cyanide & effluent from the offshore oil and gas industry. In 2004 I took up a position in Bermuda at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) where I was Principal Investigator of the government funded Marine Environmental Program. This involved designing and implementing various long-term monitoring programs (water quality, seawater temperature, ecological surveys), as well as ecotoxicological studies and surveys of contaminant concentrations. In 2009, I returned to Australia to take up my present position at AIMS-WA in Perth

My major research interest is the biology of the coral-algal symbiosis and understanding and quantifying how the relationship changes during conditions of altered environmental conditions (natural and anthropogenic). I am involved in developing ways to examine and quantify the condition of corals in both laboratory-based setting (i.e. for determining water quality criteria for reefal ecosystems) and in the field (i.e. examining dredging or construction-related activity, or point/diffuse source pollution). I am particularly interested in developing water quality criteria for coral reef environments for sediments, metals and pesticides.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Waste disposal on small island nations - the Bermuda seafill - and the site of possibly the most contaminated coral reef in the world.

Bermuda is a densely populated coral atoll located in the mid-Atlantic. As with many other densely populated small island nations, waste disposal is a major problem. In the absence of suitable landfill space, bulk waste (including used cars, fridges etc) and municipal solid waste incinerator ash is dumped in the sea, at a foreshore reclamation site – effectively a marine landfill - or seafill. Aerial images show the seafill has grown to encompass an area of 25 acres over the last 35 years. Such disposal practices are not uncommon on coral atolls.

As part of a process for establishing baselines for management purposes, extensive surveys were conducted of sediment contaminant concentration along transects radiating out from the seafill and compared to multiple other locations in Bermuda including offshore sites and sites influenced by light industry. Analyses of seawater leaching from the seafill indicated some metal concentrations routinely exceeded water quality guidelines, and there was a 'halo' of sediment contamaination by multiple contaminant classes including metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans, polychlorinated biphenyls and an organochlorine pesticide. When examined against biological effects-based sediment quality guidelines (SQGs), numerous sediment samples around the seafill, and in other hot-spots in Bermuda, exceeded the low-range values (where biological effects become possible), and for Hg and Zn and Cu the mid-range value (where they become probable). A few metres away from the edge of the seafill lies a small coral patch reef - proposed here as most contaminated coral reef in the world.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Janice Lough

Dr Janice Lough  is a Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (Townsville) and Adjunct Professorial Research Fellow and Partner Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Reef Studies, James Cook University.  She is a climate scientist who has been publishing on issues related to climate change for nearly 30 years. 

Current research activities focus on 1) obtaining annual proxy environmental and growth records from massive corals over the past several centuries; this places current changes in an historical context and recent publications have, for example, highlighted how coral calcification rates are already changing in response to warming of the tropical oceans and that rainfall in northeastern tropical Australia has become more variable and more extreme when examined over the past three centuries, and 2) assessing how climate is already changing for tropical marine ecosystems; climate change is not a future event, significant warming of the tropical oceans has already occurred with observable consequences for coral reefs.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: The changing thermal environment for tropical coral reefs

Recent mass coral bleaching events are a clear indication of potential future impacts on tropical coral reefs of a rapidly warming world.  These events have occurred with the relatively modest amount of surface ocean warming observed to date compared with what is projected for the future.  Analyses of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) variations of the tropical oceans (30oN-30oS), between 1981-2010 and 1951-1980, shows considerable spatial variability.  Significant warming, between the two 30-year periods, occurred in 63% of the tropical oceans, <1% significantly cooled and 36% showed no significant change.  Greatest absolute warming has occurred in regions of largest inter-annual SST variability but, when standardized by the inter-annual variability, greatest relative warming has occurred in the near-equatorial Indo-Pacific region and, to a lesser extent, in the equatorial Atlantic.  Analyses of the distribution of tropical SSTs (in 1oC classes from <17oC to >32oC) between these two periods also highlights these near-equatorial regions as areas of greatest observed changes, both losses and gains of given SST classes.  Thus, although higher latitudes have and will experience greatest absolute warming of the surface oceans, these near-equatorial regions, where tropical marine organisms exist within a much narrower temperature range, are experiencing the greatest relative changes in their thermal environment.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Kathy Morrow

Dr Kathy Morrow obtained an M.S. from California State University Northridge in 2006, which investigated kelp forest ecology and biomechanics off Santa Catalina Island, California. She recently completed her Ph.D. in 2011 at Auburn University, where she focused on coral-microbial ecology.  Her research examined the allelochemical effect of benthic macroalgae on coral-associated bacteria in the Caribbean.  During her Ph.D she collaborated with the Smithsonian Marine Laboratory in Fort Pierce Florida and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminsitration (NOAA). As a NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster scholar, she conducted coral diversity and disease surveys throughout the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Since January 2012, she has been employed as a Superscience Postdoctoral fellow within the Marine Microbes and Symbioses (MMS) team at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. She is beginning research on the functional diversity of coral-associated microbes; the impact of climate change (elevated temperature, sedimentation, CO2, and nutrients) on coral-microbial communities, and the role microbes play in defining coral species and reef resilience in the face of climate change and competitive interactions.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Allelochemicals produced by Caribbean macroalgae can alter coral-microbial assemblages in situ

Kathleen M. Morrow1, Mark Liles1, Raphael Ritson-Williams2 , Nanette E. Chadwick1, and Valerie Paul2

1Auburn University, Department of Biological Sciences, 101 Rouse Life Sciences Building, Auburn, AL, 36849
2Smithsonian Marine Station, 701 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, FL, 34949

Macroalgae are abundant competitors on coral reefs, especially where rates of herbivory are low and/or dissolved nutrients are high. This study investigated the impact of macroalgal allelochemicals on the structure of coral microbial assemblages. The effect of polar and non-polar macroalgal extracts was determined in situ using culture-independent methods.  Crude extracts from three common Caribbean macroalgae were incorporated into stable gels at natural concentrations and applied directly to Montastraea faveolata and Porites astreoides corals on reefs in both Florida and Belize for ~72 hrs.  Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of 16S rRNA gene amplicons was used to examine changes in the bacteria within the surface mucus layer (SML) of both coral species. Macroalgal extracts had no visible impact on experimental coral colonies, but most extracts induced a detectable shift in coral-bacterial assemblages.  Some extracts were more potent, causing the assemblages on the entire colony to shift to a new microbial state (e.g. Lobophora variegata), whereas others had little to no impact (e.g. Dictyota sp.).  These data increase our knowledge of the molecular interactions involved in coral-algal chemical ecology and lead to other testable hypotheses about the consequences of altering the natural state of coral microbial communities. It is unknown whether algal-mediated shifts may provide a competitive advantage to macroalgae and/or be detrimental to the coral host. As present-day reefs undergo phase-shifts to competitively dominant macroalgae that have potent biochemical defense mechanisms, we should question what effect they will have on overall reef health and physiology from a microbial perspective.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Andrew Negri

Dr Andrew Negri. Current research focuses on understanding the combined effects of pollution and climate change on tropical marine organisms. Pollutants of interest include pesticides, metals, POPs and sediments from dredging, while the marine organisms studied include all of the life history stages of coral, micro and macroalgae, sponges and fish.

Negri CV

Google Scholar Publication List

Back to List of Participants

Dr Jamie Oliver

Dr Jamie Oliver - Science Leader, Western Australia

Dr Oliver has recently been appointed Research Director at the Australian Institute of Marine Science; his previous role at the Institute was Science Leader for Western Australia and Leader of the Exploring Marine Biodiversity Research Team.  He serves as deputy node leader for the Western Australian node of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) and is a member of the Governing Board of WAMSI.

Prior to this Dr Oliver worked for the WorldFish Center from 2000, first as senior scientist in charge of coral reef projects (including the Center's ReefBase information system) and then as Director of Science Coordination and  Secretary for the WorldFish Board of Trustees. He has also served as the Chair of the International Coral Reef Action Network Steering Committee and co-chair of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network Management Committee.  Prior to WorldFish he was the Director of Information Support at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and a senior scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. During this period he conceived of, and led the production of the first State of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area Report and edited the first AIMS Long-Term Monitoing Report for the GBR.   He has undertaken consultancy and advisory work on coral reef monitoring and management Tonga, Indonesia, Maldives, Fiji and Yemen.

Dr. Oliver emigrated to Australia from Canada in 1975, studying at James Cook University. He obtained his PhD in Marine Biology studying growth and reproduction in corals and was a member of the JCU Coral Reproduction Group which was instrumental in discovering the mass coral spawning phenomenon, and which was awarded Australian Eureka Prize in 1992.  His other reef interests include coral ecology, coral bleaching, remote sensing, reef monitoring & management and larval dispersal.

Curriculum vitae

Back to List of Participants

Dr Britta Schaffelke

Dr Britta Schaffelke is a Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville and leads the AIMS Water Quality and Ecosystem Health Research Team. Her interest and expertise is in research and management of environmental impacts, especially those related to deteriorating marine water quality, as well as the ecology of benthic marine plants and of introduced marine species.  Britta's current work focuses on the monitoring of water quality and related ecosystem health responses in the Great Barrier Reef and on the continuous improvement of environmental monitoring systems.

Curriculum vitae

ICRS abstract

Water quality variability in the inshore Great Barrier Reef lagoon

Britta Schaffelke, John Carleton, Miles Furnas, Murray Logan

Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, QLD 4810, Australia

Water quality is the collective term for a group of environmental variables (e.g., dissolved and particulate nutrients, turbidity, salinity, chlorophyll) that affect and control pelagic and benthic communities. Long-term data from the inshore Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon show that water quality variability is mainly driven by seasonal processes such as river floods and by sporadic wind-driven resuspension. Extreme weather events such as wet season floods are important drivers of water quality for periods of weeks to months and are a significant disturbance factor for inshore ecosystems such as coral reefs and seagrass beds. Sites close to river mouths have high turbidity levels and elevated chlorophyll a and phosphorus concentrations, often exceeding GBR water quality guideline values. The analysis of the longest available water quality time series for the GBR (1989-2010) showed that most water quality variables display significant long-term trends with a period of elevated concentrations during the late 1990s to early 2000s. These high values were explained by very high rates of vegetation clearing on the adjacent catchments, coinciding with three major river flood events. This is the first direct evidence, albeit correlative, that catchment activity (i.e. land clearing) affects marine water quality. Future improvements in GBR catchment management are expected to improve inshore marine water quality; however, we propose that the reduction of event loads should be a priority. Long time series will be required to unequivocally detect improvements in marine water quality because of the highly variable baseline and lags in ecosystem responses to load reductions.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Sven Uthicke

Dr Sven Uthicke: My current research activities include molecular and ecological research to develop indicators for changes in water quality. This work mainly focuses on benthic biofilms, and specifically foraminifera, diatoms and bacteria. This work combines field-based ecological techniques with state-of-the-art molecular and other laboratory based methods. Most recently I have initialised studies on climate change and nutrient interactions to test the hypothesis that local management is important to ameliorate impacts of climate change on coral reefs.

I have strong expertise in experimental ecology, molecular ecology and population genetics. In previous studies I investigated genetic connectivity and ecological function of coral reef invertebrates (specifically echinoderms).
 
 
Abstracts:Tropical CO2 seeps: Effects of Ocean Acidification on benthic foraminifera

Uthicke, S., Momigliano, P and K Fabricius.

Shallow water CO2 seeps in east Papua New Guinea are ideal proxies to investigate changes in coral reef communities due to ocean acidification under CO2 concentrations predicted for the end of this century. Here we present data from benthic foraminiferal distribution and photophysiological studies around 3 seeps. Benthic foraminifera in sediment samples of control areas (present day pCO2, ~ 380-450 mATM) are diverse (up to 30 taxa per sample) and abundant. Species numbers and density drastically decrease at near future CO2 concentrations (pHTotal 7.8-7.9, 600-800 mATM pCO2). In areas of only slight CO2 increase most specimens showed signs of shell corrosion. This suggests that some species may exist in micro-niches (e.g. on algae elevating pH in benthic boundary layers) but do degrade once they become detached. One symbiont-bearing species (Marginopora vertebralis) epiphytic on seagrass was studied in further detail. This foraminiferal species is absent in seagrass beds near impacted sites at pH levels <7.9. Respiration rates of that species increased significantly with increasing pCO2 concentrations. Oxygen production of the symbiotic dinoflagellates (measured in 24 h in situ incubations) increased significantly when pH levels were lowered by more than 0.2 units. Thus, endosymbiotic algae may benefit from increased dissolved inorganic carbon availability in the short term. Nevertheless, foraminifera cannot exist at enhanced pCO2 conditions. Abundances of all taxa and trophic levels (heterotrophs vs. those in association with photosynthetic symbionts) were negatively affected by high CO2. These findings paint a bleak picture for the future existence of these important carbonate producing protists.

Effects of temperature and nutrient stress on symbiont-bearing benthic Foraminifera from the Great Barrier Reef

Christiane Schmidt, a,b,*  Michal Kucera b, Petra Heinz b ,and Sven Uthickea
a
Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
b Department of Geosciences, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

Physiological responses of temperature and nutrient stress were studied on larger benthic Foraminifera (LBF) hosting endosymbiotic diatoms and dinoflagellates. Amphistegina radiata and Heterostegina depressa were exposed to increasing temperatures in static temperature experiments (23°C to 33°C, 6 d). In all species photosynthetic activity (measured with a pulse-amplitude modulated fluorometer), chlorophyll a content (a proxy for symbiont biomass) and motility (a proxy for overall fitness of the foraminifera) was reduced at 32°C to 33°C and cytoplasm color changes associated with bleaching were observed. A 30 d flow-through experiment at three temperature levels (26°C, 29°C, and 31°C) and three levels of inorganic nitrate concentration confirmed negative effects of temperature at 31°C for A. radiata, Marginopora vertebralis and H. depressa. Experimental nitrate addition significantly reduced growth and increased mortality in M. vertebralis, however, no effect was observed for the two other species used in this setup. This suggests that temperature and nutrient effects are species specific. Our results indicate that temperatures >30°C stress the foram-diatom endosymbiosis in some LBF species, and that this stress appears to lead to bleaching of the host. Given that a 2-3°C increase led to rapid bleaching of most species we propose that, similar to corals, these species are threatened in their typical habitat by near-future sea surface temperature increase and nutrient runoff predicted for tropical reef waters.

Back to List of Participants

Dr Madeleine van Oppen

Dr Madeleine van Oppen currently holds a prestigious 4-year Australian Research Council Future Fellowship at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), where she has been since 2001. At AIMS, she leads a program on the genetics/genomics of adaptation/acclimatisation of corals to climate change. This research program includes the study of the coral host animal and several of its microbial symbionts, primarily Symbiodinium and viruses. Her work is increasingly focusing on the development of genetic tools for coral reef management (e.g., reef connectivity, experimental evolution of Symbiodinium), and an assessment of the impacts and likely success of certain management strategies (e.g., managed translocation). Her scientific career started in the Netherlands, where she studied zooplankton communities and herbivorous coral reef fish for her MSc, and cold-water seaweeds for her PhD. After her first postdoctoral position on speciation in African cichlid fishes in UK, she started her research on reef corals in 1997 at James Cook University, Australia. Her contributions to Australia's coral reef science were recognised with the 2005 Dorothy Hill award for women under 40, awarded by the Australian Academy of Science.

Curriculum vitae

Abstract: Title: Can old corals learn new tricks?

One of the main challenges for today's reef corals is to keep up with the pace of climate change. Increases in temperature have already led to a reduction in coral cover and diversity. Unless corals can adapt, further losses of coral extent and diversity is expected to occur over the next decades. In this seminar, I will discuss some of the main attributes that provide the coral animal and its microbial symbionts with the potential to respond and adapt to climate change, as well as some of the intervention measures that might be considered to assist corals to adapt to climate change.

Back to List of Participants