a section of reef with many different shaped corals

Marine microbes

Small but mighty marine microbes play an important role on reefs

Marine microbes are tiny organisms that live in marine environments and can only be seen under a microscope. They include cellular life forms, such as bacteria, fungi, algae and plankton, along with the viruses that accompany them.

Coral reefs are generally considered nutrient deserts, containing limited resources for the animals and plants that call the reef home. But microbes play an important role bringing these ecosystems to life - upcycling existing nutrients, and providing unique traits to larger host organisms, providing greater opportunities for nutrient retention and ensuring these complicated ecosystems thrive.

AIMS scientists investigate several areas where microbial processes are central to issues of immediate concern to the world's coral reefs, including:

  • indicators of ecosystem health and environmental impacts,
  • adaptation, acclimatisation and evolution of coral reef animals in the face of climate change and
  • the ecological communities of microbes and viruses.