J.M. de Goeij
- Nutrient Fluxes and Ecological Functions of Coral Reef Sponges in a Changing Ocean
- Book title
- Climate Change, Ocean Acidification and Sponges
- Book subtitle
- Impacts Across Multiple Levels of Organization
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Cham: Springer
- ISBN (electronic)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Coral reefs are iconic examples of biological hotspots, highly appreciated because of their ecosystem services. Yet, they are threatened by human impact and climate change, highlighting the need to develop tools and strategies to curtail changes in these ecosystems. Remarkably, ever since Darwin’s descriptions of coral reefs, it has been a mystery how one of Earth’s most productive and diverse ecosystems thrives in oligotrophic seas, as an oasis in a marine desert. Sponges are now increasingly recognized as key ecosystem engineers, efficiently retaining and transferring energy and nutrients on the reef. As a result, current reef food web models, lacking sponge-driven resource cycling, are incomplete and need to be redeveloped. However, mechanisms that determine the capacity of sponge “engines,” how they are fueled, and drive communities are unknown. Here we will discuss how sponges integrate within the novel reef food web framework. To this end, sponges will be evaluated on functional traits (morphology, associated microbes, pumping rate) in the processing of dissolved and particulate food. At the community level, we discuss to what extent these different traits are a driving force in structuring shallow- to deep-sea reef ecosystems, from fuel input (primary producers) to engine output (driving and modulating the consumer food web). Finally, as climate change causes the onset of alterations in the community structure and food web of reef ecosystems, there is evidence accumulating that certain biological pathways are triggered, such as the sponge loop and the microbial loop, that may shift reef ecosystems faster than their original stressors (e.g., warming oceans and ocean acidification). Unfortunately, these biological pathways receive much less attention at present, which seriously hampers our ability to predict future changes within reef ecosystems.
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