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Concept: Coralline algae


Coralline algae are a significant component of the benthic ecosystem. Their ability to withstand physical stresses in high energy environments relies on their skeletal structure which is composed of high Mg-calcite. High Mg-calcite is, however, the most soluble form of calcium carbonate and therefore potentially vulnerable to the change in carbonate chemistry resulting from the absorption of anthropogenic CO2 by the ocean. We examine the geochemistry of the cold water coralline alga Lithothamnion glaciale grown under predicted future (year 2050) high pCO2 (589 μatm) using Electron microprobe and NanoSIMS analysis. In the natural and control material, higher Mg calcite forms clear concentric bands around the algal cells. As expected, summer growth has a higher Mg content compared to the winter growth. In contrast, under elevated CO2 no banding of Mg is recognisable and overall Mg concentrations are lower. This reduction in Mg in the carbonate undermines the accuracy of the Mg/Ca ratio as proxy for past temperatures in time intervals with significantly different carbonate chemistry. Fundamentally, the loss of Mg in the calcite may reduce elasticity thereby changing the structural properties, which may affect the ability of L. glaciale to efficiently function as a habitat former in the future ocean.

Concepts: Algae, Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Coral reef, Calcium carbonate, Red algae, Coralline algae


The red algae Asparagopsis taxiformis collected from the Straits of Messina (Italy) were screened for antifungal activity against Aspergillus species. EUCAST methodology was applied and extracts showed antifungal activity against A. fumigatus, A. terreus and A. flavus. The lowest minimum inhibitory concentrations observed were <0.15 mg ml(-1) and the highest were >5 mg ml(-1) for Aspergillus spp. tested. Agar diffusion assays confirmed antifungal activity of A. taxiformis extracts in Aspergillus species.

Concepts: Algae, Plant, Aspergillus, Brown algae, Sicily, Red algae, Algaculture, Coralline algae


Corals build reefs through accretion of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) skeletons, but net reef growth also depends on bioerosion by grazers and borers and on secondary calcification by crustose coralline algae and other calcifying invertebrates. However, traditional field methods for quantifying secondary accretion and bioerosion confound both processes, do not measure them on the same time-scale, or are restricted to 2D methods. In a prior study, we compared multiple environmental drivers of net erosion using pre- and post-deployment micro-computed tomography scans (μCT; calculated as the % change in volume of experimental CaCO3 blocks) and found a shift from net accretion to net erosion with increasing ocean acidity. Here, we present a novel μCT method and detail a procedure that aligns and digitally subtracts pre- and post-deployment μCT scans and measures the simultaneous response of secondary accretion and bioerosion on blocks exposed to the same environmental variation over the same time-scale. We tested our method on a dataset from a prior study and show that it can be used to uncover information previously unattainable using traditional methods. We demonstrated that secondary accretion and bioerosion are driven by different environmental parameters, bioerosion is more sensitive to ocean acidity than secondary accretion, and net erosion is driven more by changes in bioerosion than secondary accretion.

Concepts: Algae, Carbon dioxide, Coral reef, Calcium, Calcium carbonate, Limestone, Coralline algae, Crustose


Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are key producers of carbonate sediment on reefs today. Despite their importance in modern reef ecosystems, the long-term relationship of CCA with reef development has not been quantitatively assessed in the fossil record. This study includes data from 128 Cenozoic coral reefs collected from the Paleobiology Database, the Paleoreefs Database, as well as the original literature and assesses the correlation of CCA abundance with taxonomic diversity (both corals and reef dwellers) and framework of fossil coral reefs. Chi-squared tests show reef type is significantly correlated with CCA abundance and post-hoc tests indicate higher involvement of CCA is associated with stronger reef structure. Additionally, general linear models show coral reefs with higher amounts of CCA had a higher diversity of reef-dwelling organisms. These data have important implications for paleoecology as they demonstrate that CCA increased building capacity, structural integrity, and diversity of ancient coral reefs. The analyses presented here demonstrate that the function of CCA on modern coral reefs is similar to their function on Cenozoic reefs; thus, studies of ancient coral reef collapse are even more meaningful as modern analogues.

Concepts: Algae, Coral, Coral reef, Scleractinia, Ecosystem, Coral bleaching, Cnidaria, Coralline algae


Coralline red algae are significant components of sea bottom and up to now considered as exclusively marine species. Here we present the first coralline alga from a freshwater environment, found in the Cetina River (Adriatic Sea watershed). The alga is fully adapted to freshwater, as attested by reproductive structures, sporelings, and an inability to survive brackish conditions. Morphological and molecular phylogenetic analyses reveal the species belongs to Pneophyllum and is described as P. cetinaensis sp. nov. The marine-freshwater transition most probably occurred during the last glaciation. The brackish-water ancestor was preadapted to osmotic stress and rapid changes in water salinity and temperature. The particular characteristics of the karst Cetina River, such as hard water enriched with dissolved calcium carbonate and a pH similar to the marine environment, favoured colonization of the river by a marine species. The upstream advance and dispersal is facilitated by exceptionally pronounced zoochory by freshwater gastropods. Pneophyllum cetinaensis defies the paradigm of Corallinales as an exclusively marine group.

Concepts: Algae, Plant, Water, Coral reef, Seawater, Red algae, Adriatic Sea, Coralline algae


Here we describe an efficient and effective technique for rearing sexually-derived coral propagules from spawning through larval settlement and symbiont uptake with minimal impact on natural coral populations. We sought to maximize larval survival while minimizing expense and daily husbandry maintenance by experimentally determining optimized conditions and protocols for gamete fertilization, larval cultivation, induction of larval settlement by crustose coralline algae, and inoculation of newly settled juveniles with their dinoflagellate symbiont Symbiodinium. Larval rearing densities at or below 0.2 larvae mL(-1) were found to maximize larval survival and settlement success in culture tanks while minimizing maintenance effort. Induction of larval settlement via the addition of a ground mixture of diverse crustose coralline algae (CCA) is recommended, given the challenging nature of in situ CCA identification and our finding that non settlement-inducing CCA assemblages do not inhibit larval settlement if suitable assemblages are present. Although order of magnitude differences in infectivity were found between common Great Barrier Reef Symbiodinium clades C and D, no significant differences in Symbiodinium uptake were observed between laboratory-cultured and wild-harvested symbionts in each case. The technique presented here for Acropora millepora can be adapted for research and restoration efforts in a wide range of broadcast spawning coral species.

Concepts: Algae, Symbiosis, Coral, Coral reef, Endosymbiont, Coral bleaching, Great Barrier Reef, Coralline algae


The presence of banding in the skeleton of coralline algae has been reported in many species, primarily from temperate and polar regions. Similar to tree rings, skeletal banding can provide information on growth rate, age, and longevity; as well as records of past environmental conditions and the coralline alga’s growth responses to such changes. The aim of this study was to explore the presence and characterise the nature of banding in the tropical coralline alga Porolithon onkodes, an abundant and key reef-building species on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Australia, and the Indo-Pacific in general. To achieve this we employed various methods including X-ray diffraction (XRD) to determine seasonal mol% magnesium (Mg), mineralogy mapping to investigate changes in dominant mineral phases, scanning electron microscopy-electron dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scanning to examine changes in cell size and density banding, and UV light to examine reproductive (conceptacle) banding. Seasonal variation in the Mg content of the skeleton did occur and followed previously recorded variations with the highest mol% MgCO3 in summer and lowest in winter, confirming the positive relationship between seawater temperature and mol% MgCO3. Rows of conceptacles viewed under UV light provided easily distinguishable bands that could be used to measure vertical growth rate (1.4 mm year-1) and age of the organism. Micro-CT scanning showed obvious banding patterns in relation to skeletal density, and mineralogical mapping revealed patterns of banding created by changes in Mg content. Thus, we present new evidence for seasonal banding patterns in the tropical coralline alga P. onkodes. This banding in the P. onkodes skeleton can provide valuable information into the present and past life history of this important reef-building species, and is essential to assess and predict the response of these organisms to future climate and environmental changes.

Concepts: Algae, DNA, Magnesium, Coral reef, Great Barrier Reef, Red algae, Coralline algae, Crustose


Ocean acidification (OA) increasingly threatens marine systems, and is especially harmful to calcifying organisms. One important question is whether OA will alter species interactions. Crustose coralline algae (CCA) provide space and chemical cues for larval settlement. CCA have shown strongly negative responses to OA in previous studies, including disruption of settlement cues to corals. In California, CCA provide cues for seven species of harvested, threatened, and endangered abalone. We exposed four common CCA genera and a crustose calcifying red algae, Peyssonnelia (collectively CCRA) from California to three pCO2 levels ranging from 419-2,013 µatm for four months. We then evaluated abalone (Haliotis rufescens) settlement under ambient conditions among the CCRA and non-algal controls that had been previously exposed to the pCO2 treatments. Abalone settlement and metamorphosis increased from 11% in the absence of CCRA to 45-69% when CCRA were present, with minor variation among CCRA genera. Though all CCRA genera reduced growth during exposure to increased pCO2, abalone settlement was unaffected by prior CCRA exposure to increased pCO2. Thus, we find no impacts of OA exposure history on CCRA provision of settlement cues. Additionally, there appears to be functional redundancy in genera of CCRA providing cues to abalone, which may further buffer OA effects.

Concepts: Algae, Photosynthesis, Species, Coral, Coral reef, Abalone, Red algae, Coralline algae


As the ocean environment changes over time, a paucity of long-term data sets and historical comparisons limits the exploration of community dynamics over time in natural systems. Here, we used a long-term experimental data set to present evidence for a reversal of competitive dominance within a group of crustose coralline algae (CCA) from the 1980s to present time in the northeast Pacific Ocean. CCA are cosmopolitan species distributed globally, and dominant space holders in intertidal and subtidal systems. Competition experiments showed a markedly lower competitive ability of the previous competitively dominant species and a decreased response of competitive dynamics to grazer presence. Competitive networks obtained from survey data showed concordance between the 1980s and 2013, yet also revealed reductions in interaction strengths across the assemblage. We discuss the potential role of environmental change, including ocean acidification, in altered ecological dynamics in this system.

Concepts: Algae, Time, Coral, Data, Past, Ocean, Coralline algae, Crustose


Northern Hemisphere sea ice has been declining sharply over the past decades and 2012 exhibited the lowest Arctic summer sea-ice cover in historic times. Whereas ongoing changes are closely monitored through satellite observations, we have only limited data of past Arctic sea-ice cover derived from short historical records, indirect terrestrial proxies, and low-resolution marine sediment cores. A multicentury time series from extremely long-lived annual increment-forming crustose coralline algal buildups now provides the first high-resolution in situ marine proxy for sea-ice cover. Growth and Mg/Ca ratios of these Arctic-wide occurring calcified algae are sensitive to changes in both temperature and solar radiation. Growth sharply declines with increasing sea-ice blockage of light from the benthic algal habitat. The 646-y multisite record from the Canadian Arctic indicates that during the Little Ice Age, sea ice was extensive but highly variable on subdecadal time scales and coincided with an expansion of ice-dependent Thule/Labrador Inuit sea mammal hunters in the region. The past 150 y instead have been characterized by sea ice exhibiting multidecadal variability with a long-term decline distinctly steeper than at any time since the 14th century.

Concepts: Time, Glacier, Climate, History, Antarctica, Ice core, Polar bear, Coralline algae