Coral reefs are threatened tropical marine ecosystems whose fundamental unit is the reef building coral. A coral colony is a complex community comprised of both the coral host and its associated microbiome, the coral holobiont. The coral microbiome is important in shaping host health but its metabolic contribution to the coral holobiont is poorly understood, especially in the context of climate change. While the role of the dinoflagellate symbiont (Symbiodinium spp.) is best understood, the role of other algal partners such as endolithics (Ostreobium spp.) remains unclear. For example, the functional role of holobiont members during a thermally induced bleaching process has not been fully examined. This project examines the composition and the dynamics of each constituent of the holobiont during coral bleaching and subsequent recovery through time-series experiments. Results from these experiments will allow the researchers to infer the interactions and functional roles of all holobiont assemblage members. Insights from this study are expected the researchers’ understanding of the roles of coral reefs in global biogeochemical cycles, in particular, their sequestration of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the environment.
Proposer’s Name: Monica Medina-Munoz, Penn State University