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Title: Climate change effects on dimethylated sulphur dynamics in tropical coral reef systems
Author: Green, Tamara Kirsty
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 9180
Awarding Body: University of St Andrews
Current Institution: University of St Andrews
Date of Award: 2019
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Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) and dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) (collectively DMSP/O) are produced by marine algae, including symbiotic algae within corals. These sulphur compounds are important not only in sulphur cycle dynamics but also in potentially mediating atmospheric conditions, alleviating the effects of climate change and contributing to reef health. Most research has focused on the production of DMSP and its major degradation product, the climatically active gas, dimethylsulphide (DMS) by Acropora corals in the Great Barrier Reef. However, mechanisms for the production and release of DMSP/O by different reef taxa is poorly understood. Recently the importance of mesophotic reefs as refugia for shallow water corals has been postulated, however their role in the marine sulphur cycle is unknown. This research aimed to improve our understanding of the contemporary and climate change induced seawater and tissue production of DMSP/O in a range of reef environments and taxa. This was achieved through a combination of laboratory and field - based studies, using modern and established techniques. An effect of both elevated temperature and OA on increased tissue and seawater concentrations of DMSP/O production is reported in field and laboratory studies. Contrasting effects of benthic cover on tissue DMSP/O distributions and seawater DMSP are also noted. The importance of the physical and hydrodynamic environment on biogeochemical connectivity both within a reef and between neighbouring reefs is also focussed on. Crucially, however, the novel tissue and seawater data from mesophotic sites suggests that deeper reefs could affect the biogeochemistry of their shallow water counterparts. The key finding from this work is that climate change will result in increased seawater DMSP concentrations via two mechanisms; through the increase of cellular production of DMSP/O in all reef taxa, and by increasing the biomass of prolific DMSP producers as reefs transition to a fleshy/macroalgal assemblage. Whilst this could potentially mediate the effects of climate change, it will probably also worsen overall reef health, lead to a restructuring of reef communities from the microbial level upwards and will have possibly permanent and deleterious effects on overall ecosystem function.
Supervisor: Paterson, David M. Sponsor: Alfred Dunhill Links Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Dimethylated sulphur ; Climate change ; Corals ; Ecosystem health ; Cellular stress ; QH344.G8 ; Biogeochemistry ; Sulfur cycle ; Coral reef ecology ; Coral reefs and islands--Climatic factors ; Climatic changes ; Dimethyl sulfoxide ; Dimethylpropiothetin