Written Paper

Gradients of coastal fish farm effluents and their effect on coral reef microbes  [2008]

Garren, Melissa Smriga, Steven Azam, Farooq

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Coastal milkfish (Chanos chanos) farming may be a source of organic matter enrichment for coral reefs in Bolinao, Republic of the Philippines. Interactions among microbial communities associated with the water column, corals and milkfish feces can provide insight into the ecosystem's response to enrichment. Samples were collected at sites along a transect that extended from suspended milkfish pens into the coral reef. Water was characterized by steep gradients in the concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (70-160 μM), total dissolved nitrogen (7-40 μM), chlorophyll a (0.25-10 μg l⁻¹), particulate matter (106-832 μg l⁻¹), bacteria (5 x 10⁵-1 x 10⁶ cells ml⁻¹) and viruses (1-7 x 10⁷ ml⁻¹) that correlated with distance from the fish cages. Particle-attached bacteria, which were observed by scanning laser confocal microscopy, increased across the gradient from < 0.1% to 5.6% of total bacteria at the fish pens. Analyses of 16S rRNA genes by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and environmental clone libraries revealed distinct microbial communities for each sample type. Coral libraries had the greatest number of phyla represented (range: 6-8) while fish feces contained the lowest number (3). Coral libraries also had the greatest number of 'novel' sequences (defined as < 93% similar to any sequence in the NCBI nt database; 29% compared with 3% and 5% in the feces and seawater libraries respectively). Despite the differences in microbial community composi
tion, some 16S rRNA sequences co-occurred across sample types including Acinetobacter sp. and Ralstonia sp. Such patterns raise the question of whether bacteria might be transported from the fish pens to corals or if microenvironments at the fish pens and on the corals select for the same phylotypes. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of effluent-coral interactions will help predict the ability of coral reef ecosystems to resist and rebound from organic matter enrichment.


Environmental microbiology

ISSN : 1462-2912