Algal symbiont diversity in Acropora muricata from the extreme reef of Bouraké associated with resistance to coral bleaching

Widespread coral bleaching has generally been linked to high water temperatures at larger geographic scales. However, the bleaching response can be highly variable among individual of the same species, between different species, and across localities; what causes this variability remains unresolved. Here, we tracked bleached and non-bleached colonies of Acropora muricata to see if they recovered or died following a stress event inside the semi-enclosed lagoon of Bouraké (New Caledonia), where corals are long-term acclimatized to extreme conditions of temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen, and at a nearby control reef where conditions are more benign. We describe Symbiodiniaceae community changes based on next-generation sequencing of the ITS2 marker, metabolic responses, and energetic reserve measures (12 physiological traits evaluated) during the La Niña warm and rainy summer in 2021. Widespread coral bleaching (score 1 and 2 on the coral colour health chart) was observed only in Bouraké, likely due to the combination of the high temperatures (up to 32°C) and heavy rain. All colonies (i.e., Bouraké and reference site) associated predominantly with Symbiodinaceae from the genera Cladocopium. Unbleached colonies in Bouraké had a specific ITS2-type profile (proxies for Symbiodiniaceae genotypes), while the bleached colonies in Bouraké had the same ITS2-type profile of the reef control colonies during the stress event. After four months, the few bleached colonies that survived in Bouraké (B2) acquired the same ITS2 type profiles of the unbleached colonies in Bouraké. In terms of physiological performances, all bleached corals showed metabolic depression (e.g., Pgross and Rdark). In contrast, unbleached colonies in Bouraké maintained higher metabolic rates and energetic reserves compared to control corals. Our study suggests that Acropora muricata enhanced their resistance to bleaching thanks to specific Symbiodiniaceae associations, while energetic reserves may increase their resilience after stress.

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S1 Table. Mortality (%) of tagged colonies of Acropora muricata.
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S2 Table. Pairwise comparison on coral physiological traits.
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S3 Table. Pairwise comparison on metabolic reserves.
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S1 Fig. Study sites.
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S2 Fig. Rain regime.
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S3 Fig. ITS2 rarefaction curve.
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S4 Fig. Physiological profiles.
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S5 Fig. ITS2 relative abundance.
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How to cite
Alessi Cinzia, Lemonnier Hugues, Camp Emma F., Wabete Nelly, Payri Claude, Rodolfo-Metalpa Riccardo (2024). Algal symbiont diversity in Acropora muricata from the extreme reef of Bouraké associated with resistance to coral bleaching. Plos One. 19 (2). e0296902 (25p.).,

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