NCEAS Project 12478

Synthesizing molecular and ecological datasets to evaluate how diversity in coral endosymbiont communities (symbiodinium) maps onto environmental sensitivity in corals

  • Ruth D. Gates

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No activities scheduled at this time.

Climate change related increases in seawater temperature pose a serious threat to the world's coral reefs. A key conservation issue, and research priority is understanding how corals and coral reef ecosystems will respond to these environmental shifts. Changes in the composition of coral endosymbiont (Symbiodinium spp.) communities have been proposed as a mechanism by which corals might adapt to elevated seawater conditions, in a time frame concordant with the rates of environmental change. As a sabbatical fellow at NCEAS, I propose to develop the capacity to examine the biological support for this proposed adaptive trait by synthesizing ecological data on coral responses to thermal stress with molecular diversity data for coral endosymbiont communities. A major product of this effort will be a spatially contextualized Global Symbiodinium Database and Mapping Website that will provide an interface for any Internet user to perform text based or spatial queries of the database. I will use this powerful tool to examine how thermal history has influenced the present day global composition of coral endosymbiont associations and to evaluate whether corals that are ranked by ecological environmentally sensitivity exhibit differences in the nature and composition of their endosymbiont communities that are predictable within rank. The results of these analyses will be the subject of a review article styled for Biological Reviews or Coral Reefs and this work will contribute to the science necessary to complete the activities in a companion NCEAS working group proposal that will be submitted in January 2010 in collaboration with Peter Edmunds and titled “Coral reefs of tomorrow: when the winners take over, what will it be like?”

TypeProduct of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Gates, Ruth D.; Ainsworth, Tracy D. 2011. The nature and taxonomic composition of coral symbiomes as drivers of performance limits in scleractinian corals. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. Vol: 408. Pages 94-101. (Online version)