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Nocturnal dissolved organic matter release by turf algae and its role in the microbialization of reefs

Citation

Benjamin, Mueller et al. (2022), Nocturnal dissolved organic matter release by turf algae and its role in the microbialization of reefs, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.1ns1rn8ww

Abstract

The increased release of dissolved organic matter (DOM) by algae has been associated with the fast but inefficient growth of opportunistic microbial pathogens and the ongoing degradation of coral reefs. Turf algae (consortia of micro- and macroalgae commonly including cyanobacteria) dominate benthic communities on many reefs worldwide. Opposite to other reef algae that predominantly release DOM during the day, turf algae containing cyanobacteria may additionally release large amounts of DOM at night. However, this night-DOM release and its potential contribution to the microbialization of reefs remains to be investigated.

We first tested the occurrence of hypoxic conditions at the turf algae-water interface, as a lack of oxygen will facilitate the production and release of fermentation intermediates as night-time DOM. Secondly, the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) release by turf algae was quantified during day- and nighttime, and the quality of day and night exudates as food for bacterioplankton was tested. Finally, DOC release rates of turf algae were combined with estimates of DOC release based on benthic community composition in 1973 and 2013 to explore how changes in benthic community composition affected the contribution of night-DOC to the reef-wide DOC production.

A rapid shift from supersaturated to hypoxic conditions at the turf algae-water interface occurred immediately after the onset of darkness, resulting in night-DOC release rates similar to those during daytime. Bioassays revealed major differences in the quality between day and night exudates: Night-DOC was utilized by bacterioplankton two times faster than day-DOC, but yielded a four-times lower growth efficiency. Changes in benthic community composition were estimated to have resulted in a doubling of DOC release since 1973, due to an increasing abundance of benthic cyanobacterial mats (BCMs), with night-DOC release by BCMs and turf algae accounting for >50 % of the total release over a diurnal cycle. 

Night-DOC released by BCMs and turf algae is likely an important driver in the microbialization of reefs by stimulating microbial respiration at the expense of energy and nutrient transfer to higher trophic levels via the microbial loop and thereby threatens the productivity and biodiversity of these unique ecosystems.

Usage Notes

Dissolved organic and inorganic nutrients for daytime and nighttime incubations with turf algae.

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total dissolved nitrogen (TDN), dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and surface area recovered with turf algae.

 

Dissolved organic and inorganic nutrients for bioassays with daytime and nighttime exudates of turf algae.

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total dissolved nitrogen (TDN), dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and bacterial concentrations.

 

Dissolved oxygen concentrations recorded during daytime incubations with turf algae.

μmol O2 L-1

 

Light intensities recorded outside of flow chambers during daytime incubations with turf algae.

Lux

Funding

Ecology Fund of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

Society for Scientific Research in the Tropics (Treub Maatschappij)

H2020 European Research Council, Award: 715513

H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Award: 894645