Disentangling the complex microbial community of coral reefs using standardized Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS).

John K. Pearman, Eva Aylagas, Christian R. Voolstra, Holger Anlauf, Rodrigo Villalobos, Susana Carvalho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) have been applied worldwide to describe eukaryotic cryptic reef fauna. Conversely, bacterial communities, which are critical components of coral reef ecosystem functioning, remain largely overlooked. Here we deployed 56 ARMS across the 2,000-km spread of the Red Sea to assay biodiversity, composition and inferred underlying functions of coral reef-associated bacterial communities via 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We found that bacterial community structure and diversity aligned with environmental differences. Indeed, sea surface temperature and macroalgae cover were key in explaining bacterial relative abundance. Importantly, taxonomic and functional alpha diversity decreased under more extreme environmental conditions (e.g., higher temperatures) in the southern Red Sea. This may imply a link between bacterial community diversity and functional capabilities, with implications for conservation management. Our study demonstrates the utility of ARMS to investigate the response of coral reef-associated bacterial communities to environmental change.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3496-3507
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to the personnel from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab for logistical support as well as to the crew of RV Thuwal. In addition, we thank Katherine Rowe, Joanne Ellis, Amr Gusti, Giuseppe Merlino, Aislinn Dunne, Florian Roth, Joao Curdia, Zahra Alsaffar, Alejandro Restrepo, Perdana Prihartato, and members of the Red Sea Research Center summer student programme 2017 for their help with sample processing. The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from a collaboration between KAUST and Saudi Aramco within the framework of the Saudi Aramco – KAUST Center for Marine Environmental Observations. We would also like to express our gratitude to the three reviewers and the editor who made valuable contributions to improving the manuscript.


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