Over the past 2 decades, molecular techniques have established the critical role of both free-living and host-associated microbial partnerships in the environment. Advancing research to link microbial community dynamics simultaneously to host physiology and ecosystem biogeochemistry is required to broaden our understanding of the ecological roles of environmental microbes. Studies on coral reefs are actively integrating these data streams at multiple levels, from the symbiotic habitat of the coral holobiont to microbially mediated interactions between corals and algae to the effects of these interactions on the microbial community structure, metabolism, and organic geochemistry of the reef ecosystem. Coral reefs endure multiple anthropogenic impacts, including pollution, overfishing, and global change. In this context, we must develop ecosystem microbiology with an eye to providing managers with microbial indicators of reef ecosystem processes, coral health, and resilience to both local and global stressors.
Keywords: biogeochemistry; coral reef; ecosystem; metabolomics; metagenomics.