Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 335–341 | Cite as

Effect of water currents on organic matter release by two scleractinian corals

  • Christian Wild
  • Christian Laforsch
  • Christoph Mayr
  • Roland Fuß
  • Wolfgang Niggl


Organic matter release by scleractinian corals fulfils an important ecological role as energy carrier and particle trap in reef ecosystems, but the hypothetically stimulating impact of water currents, an essential and ubiquitous environmental factor in coral reefs, on this process has not been investigated yet. This study therefore quantifies organic matter release by two species of scleractinian corals subjected to ambient water current velocities ranging from 4 to 16 cm s−1 using closed-system flow-through chambers. Findings revealed that particulate organic matter (POM) concentration was significantly increased in the flow-through chambers in all investigated coral species compared to still water conditions, while no effect on dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration could be observed. These results suggest that POM release by corals may be controlled by hydro-mechanical impacts, while DOC fluxes are rather influenced by the physiological condition of the corals. Hence, this study indicates that previous POM release quantification results are conservative estimates and may have underestimated in situ POM release through corals in reef environments. The contribution of coral-derived POM to biogeochemical cycles in reef ecosystems, therefore, may be more pronounced than already assumed.


Coral Organic matter release Water current Flow chamber 



We thank Ronald Osinga, Miriam Schutter, Mechthild Kredler and Markus Oehlerich for their support. Holger H. Saar is acknowledged for his assistance during experiments. Editor Piet Spaak and two anonymous reviewers are kindly acknowledged for helping to improve this manuscript. This study was funded by grant Wi 2677/2-1 and Wi 2677/6-1 of the German Research Foundation (DFG) to C. Wild and a PhD stipend of University of Bavaria/Bavarian Elite Advancement to W. Niggl.


  1. Atkinson MJ, Kotler E, Newton P (1994) Effects of water velocity on respiration, calcification and ammonium uptake in a Porites compressa community. Pac Sci 48:296–303Google Scholar
  2. Azam F, Malfatti F (2007) Microbial structuring of marine ecosystems. Nat Rev Microbiol 5:782–791PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benson A, Muscatine L (1974) Wax in coral mucus—energy transfer from corals to reef fishes. Limnol Oceanogr 19:810–814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown BE, Bythell JC (2005) Perspectives on mucus secretion in reef corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 296:291–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bythell JC, Wild C (2011) Biology and ecology of coral mucus release. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 408:88–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coffroth MA (1984) Ingestion and incorporation of coral mucus aggregates by a gorgonian soft coral. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 17:193–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cole JJ, Likens GE, Strayer DL (1982) Photosynthetically produced dissolved organic-carbon—an important carbon source for planktonic bacteria. Limnol Oceanogr 27:1080–1090CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crossland C (1987) In situ release of mucus and DOC-lipid from the corals Acropora variabilis and Stylophora pistillata in different light regimes. Coral Reefs 6:35–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crossland C, Barnes D, Borowitzka M (1980) Diurnal lipid and mucus production in the staghorn coral Acropora acuminata. Mar Biol 60:81–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davies PS (1984) The role of zooxanthellae in the nutritional energy requirements of Pocillopora eydouxi. Coral Reefs 2:181–186Google Scholar
  11. De Goeij JM, Van Duyl FC (2007) Coral cavities are sinks for dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Limnol Oceanogr 52:2608–2617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ferrier-Pages C, Gattuso JP, Cauwet G, Jaubert J, Allemand D (1998) Release of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen by the zooxanthellate coral Galaxea fascicularis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 172:265–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Finelli CM, Helmuth BST, Pentcheff ND, Wethey DS (2006) Water flow influences oxygen transport and photosynthetic efficiency in corals. Coral Reefs 25:47–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fogg GE (1983) The ecological significance of extracellular products of phytoplankton photosynthesis. Bot Mar 26:3–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Haas AF, Jantzen C, Naumann MS, Iglesias-Prieto R, Wild C (2010a) Organic matter release by the dominant primary producers in a Caribbean reef lagoon: implication for in situ O2 availability. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 409:27–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haas AF, Naumann MS, Struck U, Mayr C, el-Zibdah M, Wild C (2010b) Organic matter release by coral reef associated benthic algae in the Northern Red Sea. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 389:53–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Herndl GJ, Velimirov B (1986) Microheterotrophic utilization of mucus released by the Mediterranean coral Cladocora cespitosa. Mar Biol 90:363–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Huettel M, Røy H, Precht E, Ehrenhauss S (2003) Hydrodynamical impact on biogeochemical processes in aquatic sediments. Hydrobiologia 494:231–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huettel M, Wild C, Gonelli S (2006) The mucus trap in coral reefs: formation and temporal evolution of aggregates caused by coral mucus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 307:69–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kappner I, Al-Moghrabi SM, Richter C (2000) Mucus-net feeding by the vermetid gastropod Dendropoma maxima in coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 204:309–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lesser MP, Weiss VM, Patterson MR, Jokiel PL (1994) Effects of morphology and water motion on carbon delivery in the reef coral Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus): diffusion barriers, inorganic carbon limitation, and biochemical plasticity. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 178:153–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Manasrah RS, Al-Horani F, Rasheed MY, Al-Rousan SA, Khalaf MA (2006) Patterns of summer vertical and horizontal currents in coastal waters of the northern Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 69:567–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mayer FW, Wild C (2010) Coral mucus release and following particle trapping contribute to rapid nutrient recycling in a Northern Red Sea fringing reef. Mar Freshw Res 61:1006–1014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Meikle P, Richards G, Yellowlees D (1988) Structural investigations on the mucus from 6 species of coral. Mar Biol 99:187–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Monismith SG (2007) Hydrodynamics of coral reefs. Annu Rev Fluid Mech 39:37–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Muscatine L (1990) The role of symbiotic algae in carbon and energy flux in reef corals. Coral Reefs 25:1–29Google Scholar
  27. Nakajima R, Yoshida T, Azman BAR, Zaleha K, Othman BHR (2009) In situ release of coral mucus by Acropora and its influence on the heterotrophic bacteria. Aquat Ecol 43:815–823CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nakajima R, Yoshida T, Fujita K, Nakayama A, Fuchinoue Y, Othman BHR, Toda T (2010) Release of particulate and dissolved organic carbon by the scleractinian coral Acropora formosa. Bull Mar Sci 86:861–870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Naumann MS, Niggl W, Laforsch C, Glaser C, Wild C (2009a) Coral surface area quantification—evaluation of established methods by comparison with computer tomography. Coral Reefs 28:109–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Naumann MS, Richter C, el-Zibdah M, Wild C (2009b) Coral mucus as an efficient trap for picoplanktonic cyanobacteria—implications for pelagic-benthic coupling in the reef ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 385:65–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Naumann MS, Haas AF, Struck U, Mayr C, el-Zibdah M, Wild C (2010) Organic matter release by the dominant hermatypic corals of the Northern Red Sea. Coral Reefs 29:649–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Niggl W, Glas M, Laforsch C, Mayr C, Wild C (2009) First evidence of coral bleaching stimulating organic matter release by reef corals 11th Int Coral Reef Symp Ft. Lauderdale, USA, pp 905–910Google Scholar
  33. Niggl W, Naumann MS, Struck U, Manasrah M, Wild C (2010) Organic matter release by the benthic upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea sp. fuels pelagic food webs in coral reefs. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 384:99–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reidenbach MA, Koseff JR, Monismith SG, Steinbuck JV, Genin A (2006) The effects of waves and morphology on mass transfer within branched reef corals. Limnol Oceanogr 51:1134–1141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Richman S, Loya Y, Slobodkin L (1975) Rate of mucus production by corals and its assimilation by the coral reef copepod Acartia negligens. Limnol Oceanogr 20:918–923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schutter M, Crocker J, Paijmans A, Janse M, Osinga R, Verreth AJ, Wijffels RH (2010) The effect of different flow regimes on the growth and metabolic rates of the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascicularis. Coral Reefs 29:737–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sebens KP, Helmuth BST, Carrington E, Agius B (2003) Effects of water flow on growth and energetics of the scleractinian coral Agaricia tenuifolia in Belize. Coral Reefs 22:35–47Google Scholar
  38. Tanaka Y, Miyajima T, Koike I, Hayashibara T, Ogawa H (2008) Production of dissolved and particulate organic matter by the reef-building corals Porites cylindrica and Acropora pulchra. Bull Mar Sci 82:237–245Google Scholar
  39. Tanaka Y, Miyajima T, Umezawa Y, Hayashibara T, Ogawa H, Koike I (2009) Net release of dissolved organic matter by the scleractinian coral Acropora pulchra. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 377:101–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tanaka Y, Ogawa H, Miyajima T (2010) Effects of nutrient enrichment on the release of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen by the scleractinian coral Montipora digitata. Coral Reefs 29:675–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van Duyl FC, Moodley L, Nieuwland G, van Ijzerloo L, van Soest RWM, Houtekamer M, Meesters EH, Middelburg JJ (2011) Coral cavity sponges depend on reef-derived food resources: stable isotope and fatty acid constraints. Mar Biol 158:1653–1666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wild C, Huettel M, Klueter A, Kremb SG, Rasheed M, Jørgensen BB (2004a) Coral mucus functions as an energy carrier and particle trap in the reef ecosystem. Nature 428:66–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wild C, Rasheed M, Werner U, Franke U, Johnstone R, Huettel M (2004b) Degradation and mineralization of coral mucus in reef environments. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 267:159–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wild C, Rasheed M, Jantzen C, Cook P, Struck U, Huettel M, Boetius A (2005) Benthic metabolism and degradation of natural particulate organic matter in silicate and carbonate sands of the Northern Red Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 298:69–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wild C, Mayr C, Wehrmann L, Schöttner S, Naumann M, Hoffmann F, Rapp HT (2008) Organic matter release by cold water corals and its implication for fauna-microbe interaction. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 372:67–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wild C, Naumann MS, Niggl W, Haas AF (2010a) Carbohydrate composition of mucus released by scleractinian warm and cold water reef corals. Aquat Biol 10:41–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wild C, Niggl W, Naumann MS, Haas AF (2010b) Organic matter release by Red Sea coral reef organisms—potential effects on microbial activity and in situ O2 availability. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 411:61–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wotton RS (2004) The ubiquity and many roles of exopolymers (EPS) in aquatic systems. Sci Mar 68:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Wild
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christian Laforsch
    • 3
  • Christoph Mayr
    • 4
  • Roland Fuß
    • 5
  • Wolfgang Niggl
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Coral Reef Ecology Group (CORE), Faculty of Biology and Chemistry (FB2)University of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT)BremenGermany
  3. 3.Department Biology II and GeoBio-CenterLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMartinsriedGermany
  4. 4.Institute of GeographyFriedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Soil EcologyHelmholtz Zentrum MünchenNeuherbergGermany

Personalised recommendations