Ecosystem inputs and recycling over coral reefs @ 3rd APCRS, 2014 (Dr Wyatt)

Functional understanding of ecosystem-scale inputs and recycling over coral reef communities from stable isotope analyses of organic matter

Alex S.J. Wyatt1*, James J. Leichter2, Benoit Thibodeau1, Toshihiro Miyajima1, Craig A. Carlson3, Craig E. Nelson4, Toshi Nagata1

1Marine Biogeochemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemical Oceanography, Atmosphere & Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba, JAPAN
2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
3University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, USA
4Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, University of Hawai’i, USA

Stable isotope analyses (SIA) are an increasingly useful tool for understanding functional links between water flow and nutrient cycling over coral reefs, including relative fluxes of oceanic and reef-derived material. SIA have suggested that oceanic particulate organic matter (POM) flowing over reefs can be rapidly metabolized, with the subsequent release of remineralized inorganic nutrients, as well reef-derived POM, representing a significant resource for downstream communities. High oceanic concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM) relative to POM suggests DOM may be an even more significant resource, especially around low-POM reefs such as mid-ocean islands and atolls. However, DOM fluxes have rarely been quantified, perhaps due to the refractory nature of oceanic DOM and difficulties linking small concentration changes with spatial changes in both hydrodynamics and macro- and microbial communities. Our Lagrangian studies of DOM around Moorea, French Polynesia and Ishigaki Island, Japan suggest that DOM changes occurring over short spatial scales reflect a balance between uptake and release. SIA further suggest that the release of reef-derived DOM (i.e. enriched in 13C), perhaps relatively labile and from nitrogen fixing organisms (i.e. depleted in 15N), may promote nutrient recycling and supply to downstream communities. Linking SIA and local hydrodynamics offers a promising path towards elucidating the relative functional importance of oceanic and reef-level processes for reef communities.

Key words: dissolved organic matter, fluxes, particulate organic matter, recycling, stable isotope analyses

Bio-physical interactions on a coral reef island (Leichter et al., Oceanography)

Biological and Physical Interactions on a Tropical Island Coral Reef: Transport and Retention Processes on Moorea, French Polynesia

Leichter, J.J., Alldredge, A.L., Bernadi, G., Brooks, A.J., Carlson, C.A., Carpenter, R.C., Edmunds, P.J., Fewings, M.R., Hanson, K.M., Holbrook, S.J., Hench, J.L., Nelson, C.E., Schmitt, R.J., Toonen, R.J., Washburn, L. and Wyatt, A.S.J.

The Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research project funded by the US National Science Foundation includes multidisciplinary studies of physical processes driving ecological dynamics across the fringing reef, back reef, and fore reef habitats of Moorea, French Polynesia. A network of oceanographic moorings and a variety of other approaches have been used to investigate the biological and biogeochemical aspects of water transport and retention processes in this system. There is evidence to support the hypothesis that a low-frequency counterclockwise flow around the island is superimposed on the relatively strong alongshore currents on each side of the island. Despite the rapid flow and flushing of the back reef, waters over the reef display chemical and biological characteristics distinct from those offshore. The patterns include higher nutrient and lower dissolved organic carbon concentrations, distinct microbial community compositions among habitats, and reef assemblages of zooplankton that exhibit migration behavior, suggesting multigenerational residence on the reef. Zooplankton consumption by planktivorous fish on the reef reflects both retention of reef-associated taxa and capture by the reef community of resources originating offshore. Coral recruitment and population genetics of reef fishes point to retention of larvae within the system and high recruitment levels from local adult populations. The combined results suggest that a broad suite of physical and biological processes contribute to high retention of externally derived and locally produced organic materials within this island coral reef system.

DON isotopes over a coral reef (Thibodeau et al., Coral Reefs)

Heterogeneous dissolved organic nitrogen supply over a coral reef: first evidence from nitrogen stable isotope ratios

B. Thibodeau, T. Miyajima, I. Tayasu, A. S. J. Wyatt, A. Watanabe, N. Morimoto, C. Yoshimizu, T. Nagata

Dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) potentially plays a major role in sustaining the high productivity and biological diversity of coral reefs. However, data are scarce regarding sources and sinks of DON. This study, for the first time, determined the 15N isotopic composition of total dissolved nitrogen (δ15NTDN), reflecting the isotopic signature of DON, in the water column over a coral reef. The uniformity in δ15NTDN during high tide (3.2 ± 0.3 ‰) indicated that the DON was mainly derived from offshore waters. In contrast, higher spatial heterogeneity of δ15NTDN (3.1 ± 0.9 ‰) and DON concentrations during low tide indicated the existence of local DON sources patchily distributed over the reef. Low δ15NTDN values located mid-reef were indicative of DON release from organisms that obtained their N via N2 fixation, whereas high δ15NTDN appeared to reflect localized release of DON by organisms exposed to dissolved inorganic nitrogen with elevated 15N, such as from terrestrial and offshore inputs. Collectively, the results highlight the importance of spatial patterns in DON release from reef communities in the N cycling of coral reefs.