Sumitomo Foundation grant to Dr Wyatt et al.

The Sumitomo Foundation has awarded an Environmenal Research Grant (環境研究助成) to Dr Wyatt and colleagues for their pioneering work on the environmental drivers of the structure and function of ‘twilight reefs’ (deep-water mesophotic coral ecosystems).

Title: A refuge for coral reef biodiversity: trophic function and reproduction in the twilight zone | 危機に瀕したサンゴ礁生物の避難場所:薄明帯の学際的解明による保全・再生の支援

Participants: Alex S.J. Wyatt, Toshihiro Miyajima, Toshi Nagata, James Leichter (Scripps), Satoshi Mitarai (OIST), Kazuhiko Sakai (U Ryukyu), Rob Toonen (U Hawaii).

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Thank you to the Sumitomo Foundation for their support.


July 2016 in Onna-son, Okinawa


Impacts of internal waves on the twilight zone @ ICRS 2016, Hawaii (Dr Wyatt)

Ecological and biogeochemical impacts of internal waves on mesophotic coral ecosystems: testing eddy correlation and isotope approaches, Iriomote, Japan

Alex S.J. Wyatt1*, Toshihiro Miyajima1, James J. Leichter2, Tohru Naruse3, Tomohiro Kuwae4, Shoji Yamamoto5, Naomi Satoh1, Toshi Nagata1

1Department of Chemical Oceanography, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba, JAPAN
2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
3Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus, Taketomi, Japan
4Coastal and Estuarine Environment Research Group, Port and Airport Research Institute (PARI), Nagase, Yokosuka, JAPAN
5Department of Earth and Planetary Science, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan

While mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCE) may be protected or damped from disturbances impacting shallower reefs insufficient information is available on the environmental conditions supporting these ‘deep water refugia’. Nutrient inputs and recycling have rarely been quantified over MCE but may differ fundamentally to that of shallow counterparts due to the reduction in light and increasing reliance on oceanic nutrients, leading to increased heterotrophy over autotrophy at species and ecosystem levels and stronger links to oceanic processes. For instance, due to the depth of MCE relative to typical water column density stratification, internal waves may be a highly significant process depending on community aspect and exposure. Preliminary observations of MCE along a continuum of oceanic exposure in Funauki Bay, Iriomote, Japan indicate that ocean-exposed MCE are subject to semi-diurnal temperature oscillations of up to 4 C during summer (range 23 – 29 deg C), while inner MCE occur shallower in more turbid but stable environments. Oceanic exposure along the bay may determine both the distribution and function of spatially extensive, but relatively homogenous, communities dominated by Leptoseris sp. or Acropora ?horrida. Combining bulk and compound-specific stable isotope analyses, depth-specific radioisotope markers such as radiocarbon, and eddy correlation experiments in these habitat promises a useful approach for elucidating the functional importance of internal waves in the development and persistence of MCE at local to regional scales.

Coral reef phytoplankton fluxes (Wyatt et al., MEPS)

Particulate nutrient fluxes over a fringing coral reef: relevant scales of phytoplankton production and mechanisms of supply

Alex S. J. Wyatt, Ryan J. Lowe, Stuart Humphries, Anya M. Waite

Seasonal observations of phytoplankton uptake at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, reinforce the importance of particulate organic nitrogen (PON) and carbon (POC) in reef nutrient budgets and identify wave action and the dynamics of regional currents (over a range of temporal and spatial scales) as important factors determining plankton supply to the reef. Phytoplankton uptake rates, calculated from declining chlorophyll a concentrations as water moved over the reef, appeared to be near the physical limits of mass transfer. Phytoplankton-derived PON flux of 2 to 5 mmol N m–2 d–1 was on the order of that typical for dissolved N uptake—confirming that particle feeding may supply the N missing in reef N budgets—while POC flux of 14 to 27 mmol C m–2 d–1 was on the order of net community metabolism. Phytoplankton supply was highly variable at daily-to-seasonal time scales in response to the dynamics of a regional current system dominated by the downwelling-favourable Leeuwin Current (LC). Acceleration of the LC in the austral autumn may supply as much phytoplankton to the reef as sporadic upwelling associated with the Ningaloo Current (NC) in summer. The ocean catchment concept is introduced as a basis for examining the spatial scale of pelagic processes influencing benthic systems: every day, Ningaloo may completely consume the phytoplankton over 87 km2 of LC water, compared to only 20 km2 of NC water. Production within this catchment appears insufficient to maintain offshore phytoplankton concentrations, and advection of remotely sourced production into the catchment is required to balance reef uptake. A functional dependence by reef organisms on externally sourced ocean productivity increases the potential scale at which human- or climatically induced changes may affect reef communities and suggests that processes such as changes in offshore currents and plankton communities require further consideration in reef-level biogeochemistry.

KEY WORDS: Ningaloo Reef · Nutrient budget · Oceanographic forcing · Particulate organic carbon · Particulate organic nitrogen · Leeuwin Current · Ocean catchment · Upwelling