This is the first study in which an entire coral reef community, from the smallest to the largest organisms, is described across a gradient of human habitation, said Enric Sala, who led the 2005 expedition and is a coauthor of the PLoS ONE papers. Sala, an adjunct professor at Scripps and a National Geographic emerging explorer and fellow, is based at the National Council of Scientific Research of Spain. We use Kingman as a window into the past, a time machine that allows us to understand what we have lost and how we lost it.
One of the major surprising findings from this study, with direct conservation relevance, is that the healthier reefs showed the capacity to recover from climate change events, said Scripps Oceanography scientist Stuart Sandin, lead author of the PLoS paper covering large organisms and coordinator of the Line Islands Expedition. When the ecosystem structure is intact, the corals appear to bounce back better from previous warm water events that have killed coral.
The second PLoS ONE paper describes the ecology of microbes across the four atolls. The researchers, led by Elizabeth Dinsdale and Forest Rohwer of San Diego State University, found 10 times more microbial cells and virus-like particles in the Kiritimati water column compared with Kingman. The microbes around Kiritimatis reefs, which had the highest percentage of coral disease and smallest coverage of corals, contained a large percentage of potential pathogens.
Obtaining this microbial data set is particularly important given the association of microbes in the ongoing degradation of coral reef ecosystems worldwide, the authors noted.
A PLoS Biology essay authored by Nancy Knowlton, adjunct professor at Scripps Oceanography and currently with the Smithsonian Institution, and Jeremy Jackson, professor, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Oceanography, analyzes the impo
|Contact: Mario Aguilera or Annie Reisewitz|
University of California - San Diego