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Line Islands Collection to Detail Microbial Dynamics of Coral Reef Robustness and Decline

Collection of papers will run to shed light on relationships between microbes, coral, algae, and fish.

June 19, 2013

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A black tip reef shark swims over a large table-top Acropora coral colony in the remote Southern Line Islands. This image shows the coupling of healthy benthic communities, as seen by the high cover of calcifying organisms and high abundance of top predators in coral reef systems.

convict tang
Large school of convict tang (Acanthurus triostegus) on the remote reefs of Palmyra Atoll (US Fish and Wildlife Refuge and Pacific Remote Island Area National Marine Monument). Photo by Jennifer Smith

A new expedition that will launch in the fall of 2013 will focus on the interactions between microbes, coral, algae and fish on one of the most pristine coral reefs in the world, the Line Islands coral reefs of the central Pacific Ocean. What is unique about this expedition and subsequent papers that will be published about the expedition will be a collection of related articles that will be published (in the open access journal PeerJ) running up to the expedition.


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Forest Rohwer, a microbial ecologist and professor of biology at San Diego State University will investigate the relationships and interactions between microbes and microorganisms and how they respond to "perturbations" or changes to their environments. Jennifer E. Smith a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego will examine how local activities such as fishing, pollution, and invasive species and global impacts such as ocean warming and acidification  affect competition between benthic taxa and how this alters a reef community's structure. Stuart Sandin also of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography will look at predator/prey interactions and how those dynamics impact the communities that call coral reefs home.

Rowher, Smith, Sandin and their teams are hoping that they can present their articles in a cohesive collection in an effort to demonstrate implications that look at coral reef microbiology on a different scale in hopes that others may see their findings in a broader context.

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