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First evidence of an important organic matter trophic pathway between temperate corals and pelagic microbial communities

Abstract : Mucus, i.e., particulate and dissolved organic matter (POM, DOM) released by corals, acts as an important energy carrier in tropical ecosystems, but little is known on its ecological role in temperate environments. This study assessed POM and DOM production by the temperate coral Cladocora caespitosa under different environmental conditions. The subsequent enzymatic degradation, growth of prokaryotes and virus-like particles (VLPs) as well as changes in the structure of the prokaryotic communities were also monitored. C. caespitosa produced an important quantity of mucus, which varied according to the environmental conditions (from 37.8 to 67.75 nmol carbon h(-1) cm(-2)), but remained higher or comparable to productions observed in tropical corals. It has an important nutritional value, as highlighted by the high content in dissolved nitrogen (50% to 90% of the organic matter released). Organic matter was rapidly degraded by prokaryotes' enzymatic activities, and due to its nitrogen content, aminopeptidase activity was 500 fold higher than the a-glucosidase activity. Prokaryotes, as well as VLPs, presented a rapid growth in the mucus, with prokaryote production rates as high as 0.31 mu g h(-1) L-1. Changes in bacterial and archaeal communities were observed in the ageing mucus and between mucus and the water column, suggesting a clear impact of mucus on microorganism diversity. Overall, our results show that the organic matter released by temperate corals, such as C. caespitosa, which can form reef structures in the Mediterranean Sea, stimulates microbial activity and thereby functions as a significant carbon and nitrogen supplier to the microbial loop.
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J. A. Fonvielle, S. Reynaud, Stéphan Jacquet, Brigitte Le Berre, C. Ferrier-Pagès. First evidence of an important organic matter trophic pathway between temperate corals and pelagic microbial communities. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, 10 (10), ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0139175⟩. ⟨hal-02640463⟩

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