The impact of reduced pH on the microbial community of the coral Acropora eurystoma

ISME J. 2011 Jan;5(1):51-60. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.102. Epub 2010 Jul 29.


Rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are acidifying the world's oceans. Surface seawater pH is 0.1 units lower than pre-industrial values and is predicted to decrease by up to 0.4 units by the end of the century. This change in pH may result in changes in the physiology of ocean organisms, in particular, organisms that build their skeletons/shells from calcium carbonate, such as corals. This physiological change may also affect other members of the coral holobiont, for example, the microbial communities associated with the coral, which in turn may affect the coral physiology and health. In the present study, we examined changes in bacterial communities in the coral mucus, tissue and skeleton following exposure of the coral Acropora eurystoma to two different pH conditions: 7.3 and 8.2 (ambient seawater). The microbial community was different at the two pH values, as determined by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis. Further analysis of the community in the corals maintained at the lower pH revealed an increase in bacteria associated with diseased and stressed corals, such as Vibrionaceae and Alteromonadaceae. In addition, an increase in the number of potential antibacterial activity was recorded among the bacteria isolated from the coral maintained at pH 7.3. Taken together, our findings highlight the impact that changes in the pH may have on the coral-associated bacterial community and their potential contribution to the coral host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alteromonadaceae / genetics
  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Seawater / chemistry
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Vibrionaceae / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S