Marine Probiotics: Increasing Coral Resistance to Bleaching through Microbiome Manipulation
Although the early coral reef-bleaching warning system (NOAA/USA) is established, there is no feasible treatment that can minimize temperature bleaching and/or disease impacts on corals in the field. Here, we present the first attempts to extrapolate the widespread and well-established use of bacterial consortia to protect or improve health in other organisms (e.g., humans and plants) to corals. Manipulation of the coral-associated microbiome was facilitated through addition of a consortium of native (isolated from Pocillopora damicornis and surrounding seawater) putatively beneficial microorganisms for corals (pBMCs), including five Pseudoalteromonas sp., a Halomonas taeanensis and a Cobetia marina-related species strains.
The results from a controlled aquarium experiment in two temperature regimes (26 °C and 30 °C) and four treatments (pBMC; pBMC with pathogen challenge – Vibrio coralliilyticus, VC; pathogen challenge, VC; and control) revealed the ability of the pBMC consortium to partially mitigate coral bleaching. Significantly reduced coral-bleaching metrics were observed in pBMC-inoculated corals, in contrast to controls without pBMC addition, especially challenged corals, which displayed strong bleaching signs as indicated by significantly lower photopigment contents and Fv/Fm ratios. The structure of the coral microbiome community also differed between treatments and specific bioindicators were correlated with corals inoculated with pBMC (e.g., Cobetia sp.) or VC (e.g., Ruegeria sp.).
Our results indicate that the microbiome in corals can be manipulated to lessen the effect of bleaching, thus helping to alleviate pathogen and temperature stresses, with the addition of BMCs representing a promising novel approach for minimizing coral mortality in the face of increasing environmental impacts.