In coral reef ecosystems, amid stony corals, fronds of algae and schools of fish, microorganisms are essential for recycling nutrients—transforming bits of organic matter into forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, for example, that are useful to photosynthetic organisms.
A study published today in Nature Communications by researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU), the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and others revealed that the bacteria present in the water overlying dozens of coral reefschanged dramatically during the night, and then returned to the same daytime community as observed the morning before. Further, as if these communities were all privy to the same schedule, these changes were synchronized across reefs separated by hundreds of miles.
“Investigations of day-night rhythms of reef processes are required to holistically understand the functional roles of microbial players in these ecosystems,” said Linda Wegley Kelly, adjunct assistant research professor at SDSU and co-lead author of the study.
In 2013, an international team of researchers conducted a cruise to the Southern Line Islands, a remote chain of equatorial islands south of Hawai’i, to measure a suite of reef processes.
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