The road forward to incorporate seawater microbes in predictive reef monitoring

Terzin, Marko, Laffy, Patrick W., Robbins, Steven, Yeoh, Yun Kit, Frade, Pedro R., Glasl, Bettina, Webster, Nicole S, and Bourne, David G. (2024) The road forward to incorporate seawater microbes in predictive reef monitoring. Environmental Microbiome, 19. 5.

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Marine bacterioplankton underpin the health and function of coral reefs and respond in a rapid and sensitive manner to environmental changes that affect reef ecosystem stability. Numerous meta-omics surveys over recent years have documented persistent associations of opportunistic seawater microbial taxa, and their associated functions, with metrics of environmental stress and poor reef health (e.g. elevated temperature, nutrient loads and macroalgae cover). Through positive feedback mechanisms, disturbance-triggered heterotrophic activity of seawater microbes is hypothesised to drive keystone benthic organisms towards the limit of their resilience and translate into shifts in biogeochemical cycles which influence marine food webs, ultimately affecting entire reef ecosystems. However, despite nearly two decades of work in this space, a major limitation to using seawater microbes in reef monitoring is a lack of a unified and focused approach that would move beyond the indicator discovery phase and towards the development of rapid microbial indicator assays for (near) real-time reef management and decision-making. By reviewing the current state of knowledge, we provide a comprehensive framework (defined as five phases of research and innovation) to catalyse a shift from fundamental to applied research, allowing us to move from descriptive to predictive reef monitoring, and from reactive to proactive reef management.

Item ID: 81986
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2524-6372
Keywords: Coral reef health, Functional meta-omics, Microbial monitoring, Reef bacterioplankton
Copyright Information: © Crown 2024. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2024 01:02
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3107 Microbiology > 310703 Microbial ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180502 Assessment and management of pelagic marine ecosystems @ 40%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180505 Measurement and assessment of marine water quality and condition @ 40%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 20%
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