Navigation Links
The 'slippery slope to slime': Overgrown algae causing coral reef declines
Date:9/19/2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. Researchers at Oregon State University for the first time have confirmed some of the mechanisms by which overfishing and nitrate pollution can help destroy coral reefs it appears they allow an overgrowth of algae that can bring with it unwanted pathogens, choke off oxygen and disrupt helpful bacteria.

These "macroalgae," or large algal species, are big enough to essentially smother corals. They can get out of control when sewage increases nitrate levels, feeds the algae, and some of the large fish that are most effective at reducing the algal buildup are removed by fishing.

Scientists found that macroalgal competition decreased coral growth rates by about 37 percent and had other detrimental effects. Other research has documented some persistent states of hypoxia.

Researchers call this process "the slippery slope to slime."

Findings on the research were just published in PLoS One, a professional journal. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

"There is evidence that coral reefs around the world are becoming more and more dominated by algae," said Rebecca Vega-Thurber, an OSU assistant professor of microbiology. "Some reefs are literally covered up in green slime, and we wanted to determine more precisely how this can affect coral health."

The new study found that higher levels of algae cause both a decrease in coral growth rate and an altered bacterial community. The algae can introduce some detrimental pathogens to the coral and at the same time reduce levels of helpful bacteria. The useful bacteria are needed to feed the corals in a symbiotic relationship, and also produce antibiotics that can help protect the corals from other pathogens.

One algae in particular, Sargassum, was found to vector, or introduce a microbe to corals, a direct mechanism that might allow introduction of foreign pathogens.

There are thousands of species of algae, and coral reefs have evolved with them in a relationship that often benefits the entire tropical marine ecosystem. When in balance, some algae grow on the reefs, providing food to both small and large fish that nibble at the algal growth. But the algal growth is normally limited by the availability of certain nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, and some large fish such as parrot fish help eat substantial amounts of algae and keep it under control.

All of those processes can be disrupted when algal growth is significantly increased by the nutrients and pollution from coastal waste water, and overfishing reduces algae consumption at the same time.

"This shows that some human actions, such as terrestrial pollution or overfishing, can affect everything in marine ecosystems right down to the microbes found on corals," Vega-Thurber said. "We've suspected before that increased algal growth can bring new diseases to corals, and now for the first time have demonstrated in experiments these shifts in microbial communities."

Some mitigation of the problem is already being done on high-value coral reefs by mechanically removing algae, Vega-Thurber said, but the best long-term solution is to reduce pollution and overfishing so that a natural balance can restore itself.

Corals are one of Earth's oldest animal life forms, evolving around 500 million years ago. They host thousands of species of fish and other animals, are a major component of marine biodiversity in the tropics, and are now in decline around the world. Reefs in the Caribbean Sea have declined more than 80 percent in recent decades.


'/>"/>

Contact: Rebecca Vega-Thurber
Rebecca.vega-thurber@oregonstate.edu
541-737-1851
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Oil from algae closer to reality through studies by unique collaboration of scientists
2. U OF A expert pinpoints nutrient behind fresh water algae blooms
3. Ecologist: Genetically engineered algae for biofuel pose potential risks that should be studied
4. Viruses linked to algae that control coral health
5. A nanoscopic look at the estuarys green algae
6. Carbon is key for getting algae to pump out more oil
7. Algae biofuels: the wave of the future
8. A project to research biological and chemical aspects of microalgae to fuel approach
9. Researchers identify key culprit causing muscle atrophy
10. Frequent traveller: Dysentery-causing bacteria spreading from Europe to Australia
11. Bangladeshi women prefer pollution-causing cookstoves
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/30/2017)... Today, American Trucking Associations announced Seeing ... and eye tracking software, became the newest member ... "Artificial intelligence and advanced sensing algorithms ... driver,s attentiveness levels while on the road.  Drivers ... fatigue and prevent potential accidents, which could lead ...
(Date:6/14/2017)... PARIS , June 15, 2017  IBM (NYSE: IBM ... the international tech event dedicated to developing collaboration between startups ... on June 15-17. During the event, nine startups will ... deliver value in various industries. ... in the international market, with a 30 percent increase in ...
(Date:5/16/2017)... , May 16, 2017  Veratad Technologies, LLC ( ... online age and identity verification solutions, announced today they ... Conference 2017, May 15 thru May 17, 2017, in ... and International Trade Center. Identity impacts ... and in today,s quickly evolving digital world, defining identity ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... 2017 , ... ComplianceOnline’s Medical Device Summit is back for its 4th year. ... San Francisco, CA. The Summit brings together current and former FDA office bearers, regulators, ... government officials from around the world to address key issues in device compliance, quality ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... Netherlands and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. ... Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) ... MMprofiler™ with SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with ... known as MUK nine . The University of ... which is partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Singh Biotechnology today announced that ... SBT-100, its novel anti-STAT3 (Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3) B VHH13 ... cross the cell membrane and bind intracellular STAT3 and inhibit its function. Dysregulation ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 10, 2017 , ... For the second time in three ... Mentoring Award. Representatives of the FirstHand program travelled to Washington, D.C. Tuesday, October ... US2020’s mission is to change the trajectory of STEM education in America by ...
Breaking Biology Technology: