Altieri Andrew

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  • Article
    Differential susceptibility of reef-building corals to deoxygenation reveals remarkable hypoxia tolerance
    (Nature Research, 2021-11-30) Johnson, Maggie D. ; Swaminathan, Sara D. ; Nixon, Emily N. ; Paul, Valerie J. ; Altieri, Andrew
    Ocean deoxygenation threatens the persistence of coastal ecosystems worldwide. Despite an increasing awareness that coastal deoxygenation impacts tropical habitats, there remains a paucity of empirical data on the effects of oxygen limitation on reef-building corals. To address this knowledge gap, we conducted laboratory experiments with ecologically important Caribbean corals Acropora cervicornis and Orbicella faveolata. We tested the effects of continuous exposure to conditions ranging from extreme deoxygenation to normoxia (~ 1.0 to 6.25 mg L−1 dissolved oxygen) on coral bleaching, photophysiology, and survival. Coral species demonstrated markedly different temporal resistance to deoxygenation, and within a species there were minimal genotype-specific treatment effects. Acropora cervicornis suffered tissue loss and mortality within a day of exposure to severe deoxygenation (~ 1.0 mg L−1), whereas O. faveolata remained unaffected after 11 days of continuous exposure to 1.0 mg L−1. Intermediate deoxygenation treatments (~ 2.25 mg L−1, ~ 4.25 mg L−1) elicited minimal responses in both species, indicating a low oxygen threshold for coral mortality and coral resilience to oxygen concentrations that are lethal for other marine organisms. These findings demonstrate the potential for variability in species-specific hypoxia thresholds, which has important implications for our ability to predict how coral reefs may be affected as ocean deoxygenation intensifies. With deoxygenation emerging as a critical threat to tropical habitats, there is an urgent need to incorporate deoxygenation into coral reef research, management, and action plans to facilitate better stewardship of coral reefs in an era of rapid environmental change.
  • Article
    Rapid ecosystem-scale consequences of acute deoxygenation on a Caribbean coral reef
    (Nature Research, 2021-07-26) Johnson, Maggie D. ; Scott, Jarrod J. ; Leray, Matthieu ; Lucey, Noelle ; Rodriguez Bravo, Lucia M. ; Wied, William L. ; Altieri, Andrew H.
    Loss of oxygen in the global ocean is accelerating due to climate change and eutrophication, but how acute deoxygenation events affect tropical marine ecosystems remains poorly understood. Here we integrate analyses of coral reef benthic communities with microbial community sequencing to show how a deoxygenation event rapidly altered benthic community composition and microbial assemblages in a shallow tropical reef ecosystem. Conditions associated with the event precipitated coral bleaching and mass mortality, causing a 50% loss of live coral and a shift in the benthic community that persisted a year later. Conversely, the unique taxonomic and functional profile of hypoxia-associated microbes rapidly reverted to a normoxic assemblage one month after the event. The decoupling of ecological trajectories among these major functional groups following an acute event emphasizes the need to incorporate deoxygenation as an emerging stressor into coral reef research and management plans to combat escalating threats to reef persistence.