Effects of predation and nutrient enrichment on the success and microbiome of a foundational coral.
By inflicting damage to prey tissues, consumer species may increase stress in prey hosts and reduce overall fitness (i.e., primary effects, such as growth or reproduction) or cause secondary effects by affecting prey interactions with other species such as microbes. However, little is known about how abiotic conditions affect the outcomes of these biotic interactions. In coral reef communities, both nutrient enrichment and predation have been linked to reduced fitness and disease facilitation in corals, yet no study to date has tested their combined effects on corals or their associated microbial communities (i.e., microbiomes). Here, we assess the effects of grazing by a prevalent coral predator (the short coral snail, Coralliophila abbreviata) and nutrient enrichment on staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, and its microbiomes using a factorial experiment and high-throughput DNA sequencing. We found that predation, but not nutrients, significantly reduced coral growth and increased mortality, tissue loss, and turf algae colonization. Partial predation and nutrient enrichment both independently altered coral microbiomes such that one bacterial genus came to dominate the microbial community. Nutrient-enriched corals were associated with significant increases in Rickettsia-like organisms, which are currently one of several microbial groups being investigated as a disease agent in this coral species. However, we found no effects of nutrient enrichment on coral health, disease, or their predators. This research suggests that in the several months following coral transplantation (i.e., restoration) or disturbance (i.e., recovery), Caribbean acroporid corals appear to be highly susceptible to negative effects caused by predators, but not or not yet susceptible to nutrient enrichment despite changes to their microbial communities.
Shaver, EC; Shantz, AA; McMinds, R; Burkepile, DE; Vega Thurber, RL; Silliman, BR
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