Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 841-853

First online:

Nutritional status and metabolism of the coral Stylophora subseriata along a eutrophication gradient in Spermonde Archipelago (Indonesia)

  • Y. SawallAffiliated withLeibniz Center for Tropical Marine EcologyLeibniz Institute for Marine Science Email author 
  • , M. C. TeichbergAffiliated withLeibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology
  • , J. SeemannAffiliated withLeibniz Center for Tropical Marine EcologyMuseum für Naturkunde Berlin– Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity at the Humboldt University Berlin
  • , M. LitaayAffiliated withCenter for Coral Reef Research, Hasanuddin University
  • , J. JompaAffiliated withCenter for Coral Reef Research, Hasanuddin University
  • , C. RichterAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research

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Coral responses to degrading water quality are highly variable between species and depend on their trophic plasticity, acclimatization potential, and stress resistance. To assess the nutritional status and metabolism of the common scleractinian coral, Stylophora subseriata, in situ experiments were carried along a eutrophication gradient in Spermonde Archipelago, Indonesia. Coral fragments were incubated in light and dark chambers to measure photosynthesis, respiration, and calcification in a number of shallow reefs along the gradient. Chlorophyll a (chl a), protein content, maximum quantum yield (F v/F m), and effective quantum yield (Φ PS II) were measured on the zooxanthellae, in addition to host tissue protein content and biomass. Photosynthetic rates were 2.5-fold higher near-shore than mid-shelf due to higher areal zooxanthellae and chl a concentrations and a higher photochemical efficiency (Φ PS II). A 2- and 3-fold increase in areal host tissue protein and biomass was found, indicating a higher nutritional supply in coastal waters. Dark respiration, however, showed no corresponding changes. There was a weak correlation between calcification and photosynthesis (Pearson r = 0.386) and a lack of metabolic stress, as indicated by constant respiration and F v/F m and the “clean” and healthy appearance of the colonies in spite of high turbidity in near-shore waters. The latter suggests that part of the energetic gains through increased auto- and heterotrophy were spent on metabolic expenditures, e.g., mucus production. While coastal pollution is always deleterious to the reef ecosystem as a whole, our results show that the effect on corals may not always be negative. Thus, S. subseriata may be one of the few examples of corals actually profiting from land-based sources of pollution.


Metabolism Acclimatization Photosynthesis Nutritional status Eutrophication Stylophora subseriata