Small-scale oxygen distribution patterns in a coral reef

Adam S. Candy*, Shannara K. Taylor Parkins*, Fleur C. Van Duyl, Benjamin Mueller, Milou G.I. Arts, Will Barnes, Marie Carstensen, Yun J.H. Scholten, Yusuf C. El-Khaled, Christian Wild, Linda Wegley Kelly, Craig E. Nelson, Stuart A. Sandin, Mark J.A. Vermeij, Forest L. Rohwer, Cristian Picioreanu, Paolo Stocchi, Andreas F. Haas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

One mechanism giving fleshy algae a competitive advantage over corals during reef degradation is algal-induced and microbially-mediated hypoxia (typically less than 69.5 µmol oxygen L−1). During hypoxic conditions oxygen availability becomes insufficient to sustain aerobic respiration in most metazoans. Algae are more tolerant of low oxygen conditions and may outcompete corals weakened by hypoxia. A key question on the ecological importance of this mechanism remains unanswered: How extensive are local hypoxic zones in highly turbulent aquatic environments, continuously flushed by currents and wave surge? To better understand the concert of biological, chemical, and physical factors that determine the abundance and distribution of oxygen in this environment, we combined 3D imagery, flow measurements, macro- and micro-organismal abundance estimates, and experimentally determined biogenic oxygen and carbon fluxes as input values for a 3D bio-physical model. The model was first developed and verified for controlled flume experiments containing coral and algal colonies in direct interaction. We then developed a three-dimensional numerical model of an existing coral reef plot off the coast of Curaçao where oxygen concentrations for comparison were collected in a small-scale grid using fiberoptic oxygen optodes. Oxygen distribution patterns given by the model were a good predictor for in situ concentrations and indicate widespread localized differences exceeding 50 µmol L-1 over distances less than a decimeter. This suggests that small-scale hypoxic zones can persist for an extended period of time in the turbulent environment of a wave- and surge- exposed coral reef. This work highlights how the combination of three-dimensional imagery, biogenic fluxes, and fluid dynamic modeling can provide a powerful tool to illustrate and predict the distribution of analytes (e.g., oxygen or other bioactive substances) in a highly complex system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1135686
JournalFRONTIERS IN MARINE SCIENCE
Volume10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research received funding from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in the Call Caribbean Research: a multidisciplinary approach. CP acknowledges support and access to computational resources offered by the KAUST Computing Center and AC would like to thank SURF ( www.surf.nl ) for the support in using the National Supercomputer Snellius, under grant EINF-3105. CN was supported by the US National Science Foundation (Grant OCE 2023298) and by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Project A/AS-1 sponsored by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program under Institutional Grant No. NA18OAR4170076 from NOAA Office of Sea Grant, Department of Commerce. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or any of its subagencies. This is University of Hawai'i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) publication number 11646 and Hawai'i Sea Grant publication UNIHI-SEAGRANT-JC-21-51. Acknowledgments

Funding Information:
This research received funding from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in the Call Caribbean Research: a multidisciplinary approach. CP acknowledges support and access to computational resources offered by the KAUST Computing Center and AC would like to thank SURF (www.surf.nl) for the support in using the National Supercomputer Snellius, under grant EINF-3105. CN was supported by the US National Science Foundation (Grant OCE 2023298) and by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Project A/AS-1 sponsored by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program under Institutional Grant No. NA18OAR4170076 from NOAA Office of Sea Grant, Department of Commerce. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or any of its subagencies. This is University of Hawai'i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) publication number 11646 and Hawai'i Sea Grant publication UNIHI-SEAGRANT-JC-21-51.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Candy, Taylor Parkins, Van Duyl, Mueller, Arts, Barnes, Carstensen, Scholten, El-Khaled, Wild, Wegley Kelly, Nelson, Sandin, Vermeij, Rohwer, Picioreanu, Stocchi and Haas.

Keywords

  • 3D imagery
  • coral reef
  • hydrodynamics
  • hypoxia
  • microbial ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering

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