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Climate Change Promotes Parasitism In a Coral Symbiosis

Abstract: Coastal oceans are increasingly eutrophic, warm and acidic through the addition of anthropogenic nitrogen and carbon, respectively. Among the most sensitive taxa to these changes are scleractinian corals, which engineer the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. Corals’ sensitivity is a consequence of their evolutionary investment in symbiosis with the dinoflagellate alga, Symbiodinium. Together, the coral holobiont has dominated oligotrophic tropical marine habitats. However, warming destabilizes this association and reduces coral fitness. It has been theorized that, when reefs become warm and eutrophic, mutualistic Symbiodinium sequester more resources for their own growth, thus parasitizing their hosts of nutrition. Here, we tested the hypothesis that sub-bleaching temperature and excess nitrogen promotes symbiont parasitism by measuring respiration (costs) and the assimilation and translocation of both carbon (energy) and nitrogen (growth; both benefits) within Orbicella faveolata hosting one of two Symbiodiniumphylotypes using a dual stable isotope tracer incubation at ambient (26 °C) and sub-bleaching (31 °C) temperatures under elevated nitrate. Warming to 31 °C reduced holobiont net primary productivity (NPP) by 60% due to increased respiration which decreased host %carbon by 15% with no apparent cost to the symbiont. Concurrently, Symbiodinium carbon and nitrogen assimilation increased by 14 and 32%, respectively while increasing their mitotic index by 15%, whereas hosts did not gain a proportional increase in translocated photosynthates. We conclude that the disparity in benefits and costs to both partners is evidence of symbiont parasitism in the coral symbiosis and has major implications for the resilience of coral reefs under threat of global change.

Author: Baker, D. M., C.J. Freeman, J.C. Wong, M.L. Fogel, N. Knowlton
Year: 2018
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Email for the full article: resilience@tnc.org
The ISME Journal. doi:10.1038/s41396-018-0046-8

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Adaptation Design Tool Online Course Announcement

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Ready to get practical with adapting your management activities in light of climate change, but wondering how to organize what can be a complicated ‘adaptation design’ process? A new course, Corals & Climate Adaptation Planning: Adaptation Design Tool, can help you as a coral reef manager incorporate climate-smart design into your management activities.

This month-long mentored training (8-10 hour time commitment) features interactive lessons, hands-on exercises, webinars, and interaction with experts and other managers. Using real-world examples, you will be guided through the process of incorporating climate change adaptation into a management plan, first using existing planned actions as a starting point, and then through the development of additional climate-smart strategies as needed.

The lessons are based on the user guide, Adaptation Design Tool: Corals & Climate Adaptation Planning, which was developed as a collaborative project of the Climate Change Working Group of the interagency U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and The Nature Conservancy.

This course was designed for coral reef managers but is also fully transferable for use with other systems and applications, such as wetland and watershed management planning. Everyone is welcome!

Important Dates:

  • Course Dates: October 16 – November 17, 2017
  • September 25 – October 16: Course Orientation and Introductory Webinar registration
  • October 16: Course Orientation and Introductory Webinar – Introduction to the Adaptation Design Tool (1 hour)
  • October 17 – November 16: Complete four self-paced lessons and learning exercises (approximately 6 hours)
  • November 6: Webinar 2 – Developing Climate-Smart Design Considerations for Existing Conservation and Management Actions (1.5 hours)
  • November 17: Webinar 3 – Expanding the List of Adaptation Options & Course Conclusion (1 hour)

 

To Register:
The course will open with an orientation webinar held on October 16 at 10:00 AM HST / 4:00 PM ESTRegister here for the Orientation Webinar which will cover how to enroll in the course. If you are not able to take this mentored course, there is a self-study version available here (Note: you will need to create a user account to access the self-study course). If you have questions, please contact us at resilience@tnc.org.

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An Integrated Coral Reef Ecosystem Model to Support Resource Management under a Changing Climate

Ecosystem-based management is a useful management tool that considers both indirect and cumulative effects of added stressors to a system. Ecosystem models, especially those that consider physical and biological disturbances and human uses, can help to inform ecosystem-based management during planning and implementation stages. This study modified the Atlantis Ecosystem Model to quantify and predict the effect of added stressors on the Guam coral reef ecosystem. Specifically, the study focused on three main stressors: climate change, land-based sources of pollution (LBSP), and fishing. The study used the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report highest emission scenario to predict atmospheric COconcentrations and the RCP8.5 projection to predict sea surface temperatures. LBSP was predicted using previous data collected on Guam’s sediment and nutrient loads and river flow. Fishing predictions were based on historical catches. Short term (i.e. 30 years) and long term (i.e. 65 years) simulation tests were run for each stressor.

The short term tests revealed that fishing resulted in the greatest negative impacts with LBSP following close behind. Climate change became the dominant stressor in longer time scales with the bleaching threshold exceeded every year after year 48. It becomes clear that long-term high intensity disturbances from multiple stressors limits and sometimes even prevents ecosystem recovery. Limiting frequency, intensity, and number of stressors can significantly increase reef resilience. This study revealed that reducing LBSP and increasing water quality can delay climate-related impacts for up to 8 years while buying time for the corals to adapt to higher temperatures. The Atlantis Ecosystem Model and others like it can be used to provide a wealth of knowledge to inform ecosystem-based management decisions on both regional and global levels.

Author: Weijerman M., E.A. Fulton, I.C. Kaplan, R. Gorton, R. Leemans, W.M. Mooij, and R.E. Brainard
Year: 2015
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PLoS ONE 10(12). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144165

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Belize – Community Engagement


Freshwater Cup Soccer and Environmental Competition Builds Reef Stewardship in Belize

Location
Toledo District, Belize

In the heart of the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) is working with communities to promote sustainable use and management of the area’s rich resources, from the peaks of the highest forest ridges to the coral reefs of the ocean floor. © TIDE

In the heart of the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) is working with communities to promote sustainable use and management of the area’s rich resources, from the peaks of the highest forest ridges to the coral reefs of the ocean floor. © TIDE

The Challenge
Belize is well known for its incredible biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. In the Toledo District in southern Belize, the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor is home to many species including iguanas, ocelots, jaguars, and over 500 species of birds as well as coastal ecosystems with mangrove fringed cayes, soft-bottom seagrass beds, and fringing reefs.

This area currently has a low but rapidly growing human population. Watersheds are still relatively pristine and water quality is high but land-based pollution is increasing. The main sources are agricultural runoff, soil erosion due to clearance of riverside forests, detergents from clothes washing in rivers and plastic trash from littering or improper disposal of solid waste. Land-based pollution impacts marine ecosystems but people living far from the sea can often be unaware of the impacts they have on the reef. The local nongovernmental organization, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) is working on projects to protect water quality in southern Belize despite the growing population by enhancing stewardship of freshwater resources.

Local environmental stewardship can be one of the most important ingredients in conservation success. An innovative program in southern Belize is using sporting competition to engage local communities in environmental issues, building their awareness about climate change risks and the role they can play in helping coral reefs. © TIDE

Local environmental stewardship can be one of the most important ingredients in conservation success. An innovative program in southern Belize is using sporting competition to engage local communities in environmental issues, building their awareness about climate change risks and the role they can play in helping coral reefs. © TIDE

Actions Taken
Belizeans love football – playing it, watching it, talking about it. Local tournaments are some of the most popular social activities in the south and competitions with prizes always draw a crowd. Capitalizing on this passion, in 2004 TIDE set up the Freshwater Cup. This is a football tournament with a twist – in order to enter, each team must first plan and execute a project to protect freshwater resources. Typical projects include planting trees to protect riverbanks, removing trash from creeks, painting murals celebrating nature or installing signs with environmental messages.

Originally, the competition was exclusively for adults. A children’s competition was introduced in 2007 and in 2011, the adult competition was removed in order to accommodate more children’s teams. The competition is now for primary school children (male and female) aged twelve or under. Approximately 20 schools participate.

TIDE’s Approach Step by Step
1.  TIDE’s environmental education coordinator visits schools to present the competition, explain the rules, and encourage teams to enter.

2.  In a second visit, the education coordinator gives presentations on aquatic and marine ecosystems, land-sea interconnectivity and human impacts; facilitates a discussion on problems affecting local freshwater resources and encourages teams to suggest solutions; and uses examples of past projects to illustrate how to design a good project and encourages teams to seek input on the design from the wider community.

3.  Teams then plan projects tailored to their community’s needs and fill out a project plan form that includes a budget (typically less than US$250), funding plan and timetable for completion of activities.

4.  Teams register for the Freshwater Cup by submitting their completed project plan form, a list of team members and a team contract agreeing to abide by the rules of the game and the principle of fair play.

5.  TIDE staff members evaluate each project plan. Proposals are accepted or returned to the team for modification. A team whose proposal is returned must improve its project plan or withdraw its application.

6.  Once approved, teams have four months to complete their projects. In this time, they receive at least one visit from the education coordinator, who monitors progress and provides advice and encouragement. A small budget is made available to support the projects.

7.  By the deadline, each team must provide a project report. Teams unable to complete their project or provide a report must provide justification for an extension or be disqualified.

8.  TIDE personnel judge the projects according to pre-determined criteria. They read the project reports and visit the sites, where the children present their projects. The winners are announced at the football tournament finals (see below).

9.  The football component of the Freshwater Cup has two parts, a league stage and a knockout stage. First, male and female teams are divided into two leagues by geography (giving a total of four leagues). Over several weeks, each team plays the others in its league. TIDE provides the schools with equipment, arranges transportation for away teams, and organizes volunteer coaches and referees.

10.  The two teams earning the highest number of points in each league advance to the knockout tournament, which is held on one day toward the end of the school year. On the championship day, the semi-finals, third-place play-off and final are played before the prize-giving ceremony.

11.  First, second and third placed winners of the best environmental project and football tournaments (male and female) receive prizes consisting of school supplies, a trophy and a framed photograph of the team for the school, plus school supplies, school fees and winners medals for the individual team members.

How successful has it been?
The TIDE Freshwater Cup has been remarkably successful. It has mobilized schools and entire communities to develop greater awareness of and commitment to freshwater ecosystems.

Enhanced Environmental Stewardship

2014 marked another successful year for the Freshwater Cup environmental football tournament. More than 700 school children implemented 20 mini-projects to protect freshwater resources and the Belize Barrier Reef. © TIDE

2014 marked another successful year for the Freshwater Cup environmental football tournament. More than 700 school children implemented 20 mini-projects to protect freshwater resources and the Belize Barrier Reef. © TIDE

Through the mini-projects, many people have seized the opportunity to improve their local environment. “In many cases, the environmental projects transcend the football championship” (UNICEF 2009). For example, in 2007, the adult team from Bella Vista cleaned up an area at the edge of their village that had inadvertently become a garbage dump. They used a dump truck to remove the garbage to a nearby landfill. The following year, they took up the issue with the village council, constructed a new sanitary landfill and arranged regular waste collection for the village. Similarly, in 2008, the senior team in Jacintoville cleaned up a garbage dump and put up signage to discourage dumping. They formed an environmental club, which continues to organize regular village clean-ups.

In order to participate, the children must undertake an environmental project that is specific to protecting freshwater resources or reducing the effects of climate change on human populations. © TIDE

In order to participate, the children must undertake an environmental project that is specific to protecting freshwater resources or reducing the effects of climate change on human populations. © TIDE

The most popular projects have often been the ones that create green spaces in schools and communities. For example, in 2012 Bladen Primary School cleared trash from a local creek and created a pleasant riverside space with benches to enjoy nature. Other successful projects have included setting up organic vegetable gardens at schools, installing garbage bins by rivers and highways, tree planting and finding imaginative ways to recycle, such as building garbage bins and fences from used plastic bottles. There have been some bold education projects too. In 2013, the school team from San Marcos gave presentations to their parents, most of whom are farmers, to educate them on the harmful effects of pesticides and herbicides on aquatic life.

Players, classmates, and family members join in the environmental projects, thereby creating a domino effect of environmental awareness in the wider community. The reward that children get from successfully completing an environmental project (not just the competition prizes but also the appreciation and praise of their parents, teachers and peers) helps children to develop a sense of social responsibility and environmental stewardship. What is more, the TIDE Freshwater Cup is the first time that many of these children (and even teachers) are exposed to key environmental messages. Many had never heard of climate change, or were aware that the Belize Barrier Reef can be harmed by activities of people hundreds of miles inland. The majority of participating children seem to have internalized these ideas because school principals and teachers comment that since the Freshwater Cup, school compounds are much cleaner and they hear children telling others not to litter. TIDE provides the opportunity for these children to carry enhanced stewardship into their adult lives.

Other Social Benefits

The tournament not only teaches the children and their communities about the environment, but it also fosters teamwork, empowering the children by making them realize what can be achieved through working together. © TIDE

Being part of a team that comes up with a shared vision for a project and successfully realizes it is tremendously rewarding for the children. It fosters teamwork and empowers kids by making them realize what can be accomplished when they work together. The sports component has given thousands of girls, boys, women and men the opportunity to participate in a sports competition, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle, gender equality, teamwork, self-esteem and friendship between people of different ethnic and cultural groups. Three members of the current Belize national team played in the TIDE Freshwater Cup. “Given the shortage of leisure activities and the overall poverty of the local area, the programme also acts as a sound source of entertainment that contributes toward a healthy lifestyle for adolescents and children” (UNICEF 2009). The competition has proven so popular that is has become a household name in Toledo.

Next Steps
To increase the impact of environmental projects, TIDE plans to start encouraging schools to conduct multi-year projects, and will be assisting other organizations with replicating the program within Belize and internationally.

International Recognition
The TIDE Freshwater Cup has won several international awards for innovation in sustainable development, namely: the CEPAL Social Innovation Award in 2008 (from among over 800 entries), the Green Apple Award in 2010, and the International Olympic Committee’s Award for Sport and Sustainable Development in 2012.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Prioritize schoolchildren: Originally, the TIDE Freshwater Cup only involved adult teams but we have gradually shifted to only involving schoolchildren. This is because children are generally more receptive to learning and behavior change than adults and working with schools brings advantages in terms of organization. Teachers ensure projects are completed on time and teams consistently show up for games. Lastly, family and friends almost always get involved in the children’s projects, leading to more widespread awareness in the community.

Projects that have been undertaken have included starting recycling programs, creating green spaces in schools and communities and planting trees. Other activities have involved being engaged in clean-ups of rivers and streams, creating eco-parks and environmental clubs and the management of solid waste. © TIDE

Projects that have been undertaken have included starting recycling programs, creating green spaces in schools and communities and planting trees. Other activities have involved being engaged in clean-ups of rivers and streams, creating eco-parks and environmental clubs and the management of solid waste. © TIDE

Support teams to improve their environmental projects: Teachers and students sometimes enter the program with a low level of awareness and do not know what effective steps they can take to protect freshwater ecosystems. Teachers also have many demands on their time and leading a project can easily slip to the bottom of the pile. TIDE overcomes this lack of capacity by providing guidance and encouragement at key junctures, such as:

  • Meeting with school principals to gain their support
  • Hosting classroom lessons on human impacts on freshwater ecosystems
  • Facilitating project inception meetings with teams
  • Visiting projects and calling team leaders to check on progress
  • Providing a clear set of criteria for judging projects
  • Publicly rewarding and recognizing good performance, not just with prizes, but with praise and certificates of appreciation

All this takes a lot of time and effort – we estimate at least one hour per team per week for the four-month duration of the projects – but it is worth it because you will be leveraging orders of magnitude more time and effort and building capacity for environmental stewardship at the same time.

Children can be effective agents of change but they must be enabled: Children and adolescents are open to new ways of thinking and can challenge older generations to do more about the world’s problems. They can be influential environmental advocates, as recognised by UNICEF (2009), who have sponsored the program for a total of three years. “There is no doubt that respect for children and adolescents as subjects with full rights provides enormous benefits for society as a whole. This process… includes involvement and respect for young people as prime movers in environmental protection and the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters” (UNICEF 2009). For this to happen, children must be enabled to come up with their own ideas and have their say. Unfortunately, busy teachers sometimes find it easier to write projects themselves without consulting the children. Do your best to encourage teachers to include the children in the project design as this will maximize the personal growth of environmental stewardship from within.

Encourage teams to include other stakeholders: The most successful projects often enlist the support of multiple stakeholders, such as village councils and community groups. Obtaining input from these stakeholders during project planning will help garner their support. Local businesses may be keen to be associated with a popular community environmental and sports event. Your organization and the participating teams may be able to capitalize on this to get sponsorship for team kits, equipment, transportation and prizes.

Use the games for environmental awareness: Once the environmental projects are done and the soccer competition is underway, it can be easy for some to forget stewardship of freshwater resources. There are several things you can do to ensure the environmental focus is not lost. Have the teams present their projects at the games – enthusiastic teams will give performances every bit as entertaining as the match! Insist that each team displays a banner illustrating their name and project. Get volunteers to talk to people in the crowd about ways they can protect downstream environments. And, if you can, get a PA system and have an MC commentate on the games and remind everyone of your environmental messages. Use the event to draw media attention and get your message out to a much wider audience.

Hold a debriefing: A focus group meeting to evaluate the program will provide useful feedback to continually improve.

Make the most of volunteers: Use local and international volunteers. Try to establish a committed set of long-term volunteers (e.g. referees, coaches, project leaders). Build their capacity through training and give them incentives to show they are appreciated.

Make the competition prestigious: Use official FIFA rules and, if possible, invest in kits, boots, trophies, official size and weight balls, pitch improvements, trained referees, floodlights, a PA system, video projection and other frills. These will give the event a degree of cachet and boost eagerness to participate.

Lead Organizations
Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE)

Partners
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Australian Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration (AusAID)

Resources
Freshwater Cup Environmental Football League

This case study was adapted from: Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) 2015. Reef stewardship in Belize: TIDE Freshwater Cup soccer and environmental competition. A case study developed for the Australian Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration.

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WE ARE 10!!!

Can you believe it? A decade ago, TNC – with the support of partners AROUND THE WORLD– launched the Reef Resilience Network, creating what would grow to become a global network of resource managers sharing ideas, experiences, and expertise to effectively manage our coral reefs and reef fisheries. Curious to see what ten years can do for managers and reefs? Take a look below and here!

RRonline

Special thanks to NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and International Union for Conservation of Nature, whose committed support to the Network has helped managers innovate, accelerate, and leverage solutions for improved global coral reef health and restoration of reef fisheries.

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Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Managing exposure of corals to oxybenzone, a common ingredient found in sunscreen lotions, is critical for managing for coral reef resilience. A new study found that coral planulae exposed to oxybenzone became deformed and sessile, and had an increased rate of bleaching which increased with increasing concentrations, affecting coral recruitment and juvenile survival. Because oxybenzone is a photoxicant, high light levels at or near the surface of the water where planulae of broadcasting species spend 2-4 days before settling may place them at higher risk than was seen in this laboratory study. Water samples were also collected in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii to determine oxybenzone concentrations occurring around swimming beaches. In this study, cell death was seen in seven Indo-Pacific and Caribbean coral species at concentrations similar to the water samples taken. Caribbean species sensitivity to oxybenzone was similar to the model of coral tolerance to other stressors (Gates and Edmunds 1999)—boulder corals and other slow growing species have a higher level of tolerance to stressors. For management, the data from this study can help predict changes to coral reef community structure in places with significant oxybenzone exposure and can be integrated into reef resilience management plans.

Author: Downs, C. A., E. Kramarsky-Winter, R. Segal, J. Fauth, S. Knutson, O. Bronstein, F.R. Ciner, R. Jeger, Y. Lichtenfeld, C.M. Woodley, P. Pennington, K. Cadenas, A. Kushmaro, and Y. Loya
Year: 2015
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Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. doi: 10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7

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Coral Reef Disturbance and Recovery Dynamics Differ Across Gradients of Localized Stressors in the Mariana Islands

Disturbance and recovery patters of coral reefs in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were studied over a 12-year period, including Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) densities, localized stressors, and natural disturbances such as tropical storms. COTS densities caused significant coral decline, however, the ability of reefs to recover was most influenced by localized stressors, in particular, grazing urchin densities and herbivore sizes. Reefs on Saipan had the highest disturbance impacts, with smaller fish sizes, grazing urchins, and water quality, even though they had the most favorable geological features for coral growth. These reefs are also subject to reef-based tourism, which is important to CNMI’s economy and thus deserves a hard look at how to improve fish assemblages, urchin populations, and local water quality concerns.

Author: Houk, P., D. Benavente, J. Iguel, S. Johnson, and R. Okano
Year: 2014
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PLoS ONE 9(8): e105731. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105731

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The Micronesia Challenge: Assessing The Relative Contribution Of Stressors On Coral Reefs To Facilitate Science-To-Management Feedback

The Micronesia Challenge is an international conservation strategy initiated by the political leaders of 6 tropical island nations to conserve at least 30% of marine resources by 2020. Growing population and a shift towards cash-based economies have started to erode the traditional sources of sustainable reef management and have increased pressure upon marine resources. This study examined the effects of human populations on the diversity, function and status of coral reef ecosystems across Micronesia by assessing ecosystem condition to evaluate conservation goals of the Challenge, examining the distribution and variance of ecosystem condition as indicators of ecological stability and looking at the role of two stressors – fishing and pollution – in driving ecosystem metrics. Results showed that fishing pressure was a primary determinant of ecosystem condition across the majority of locations studied. Reef habitats that were most impacted by localized stressors also had the least stable ecosystem condition scores. In conclusion, habitats close to urban centers may require more management effort and may show less of a positive response to management than distant sites. Also, fish assemblages appeared to have a hierarchical influence upon coral-reef ecosystems compared with localized pollution. Prioritizing management upon herbivore size and diversity may best preserve the trophic relationships responsible for ecosystem services that coral reefs provide to the Micronesian island nations.

Author: Houk, P., R. Camacho, S. Johnson, M. McLean, S. Maxin, J. Anson, E. Joseph, O. Nedlic, M. Luckymis, K. Adams, D. Hess, E. Kabua, A. Yaon, E. Buthung, C. Graham, T. Leberer, B. Taylor, and R. van Woesik
Year: 2015
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PLoS ONE 10(6): e0130823/ doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130823

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