Climate change affects key nitrogen-fixing bacterial populations on coral reefs

Henrique F. Santos, Flávia L. Carmo, Gustavo Duarte, Francisco Dini-Andreote, Clovis B. Castro, Alexandre S. Rosado, Jan Dirk Van Elsas, Raquel S. Peixoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Citations (SciVal)


Coral reefs are at serious risk due to events associated with global climate change. Elevated ocean temperatures have unpredictable consequences for the ocean's biogeochemical cycles. The nitrogen cycle is driven by complex microbial transformations, including nitrogen fixation. This study investigated the effects of increased seawater temperature on bacteria able to fix nitrogen (diazotrophs) that live in association with the mussid coral Mussismilia harttii. Consistent increases in diazotroph abundances and diversities were found at increased temperatures. Moreover, gradual shifts in the dominance of particular diazotroph populations occurred as temperature increased, indicating a potential future scenario of climate change. The temperature-sensitive diazotrophs may provide useful bioindicators of the effects of thermal stress on coral reef health, allowing the impact of thermal anomalies to be monitored. In addition, our findings support the development of research on different strategies to improve the fitness of corals during events of thermal stress, such as augmentation with specific diazotrophs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2272-2279
Number of pages8
JournalISME Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 25 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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