Spatiotemporal variability of dimethylsulphoniopropionate on a fringing coral reef: the role of reefal carbonate chemistry and environmental variability

Oceanic pH is projected to decrease by up to 0.5 units by 2100 (a process known as ocean acidification, OA), reducing the calcium carbonate saturation state of the oceans. The coastal ocean is expected to experience periods of even lower carbonate saturation state because of the inherent natural variability of coastal habitats. Thus, in order to accurately project the impact of OA on the coastal ocean, we must first understand its natural variability. The production of dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) by marine algae and the release of DMSP’s breakdown product dimethylsulphide (DMS) are often related to environmental stress. This study investigated the spatiotemporal response of tropical macroalgae (Padina sp., Amphiroa sp. and Turbinaria sp.) and the overlying water column to natural changes in reefal carbonate chemistry. We compared macroalgal intracellular DMSP and water column DMSP+DMS concentrations between the environmentally stable reef crest and environmentally variable reef flat of the fringing Suleman Reef, Egypt, over 45-hour sampling periods. Similar diel patterns were observed throughout: maximum intracellular DMSP and water column DMS/P concentrations were observed at night, coinciding with the time of lowest carbonate saturation state. Spatially, water column DMS/P concentrations were highest over areas dominated by seagrass and macroalgae (dissolved DMS/P) and phytoplankton (particulate DMS/P) rather than corals. This research suggests that macroalgae may use DMSP to maintain metabolic function during periods of low carbonate saturation state. In the reef system, seagrass and macroalgae may be more important benthic producers of dissolved DMS/P than corals. An increase in DMS/P concentrations during periods of low carbonate saturation state may become ecologically important in the future under an OA regime, impacting larval settlement and increasing atmospheric emissions of DMS.

Burdett H. L., Donohue P. J. C., Hatton A. D., Alwany M. A. & Kamenos N. A., 2013. Spatiotemporal variability of dimethylsulphoniopropionate on a fringing coral reef: the role of reefal carbonate chemistry and environmental variability. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64651. Article.

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