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Coral Reef Engineers in a Changing Ocean – Implications for Ecosystem Functions and Services

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Key coral reef organisms like hard corals, sponges, or algae act as ecosystem engineers by creating habitats for other organisms and often controlling the availability of resources. Reef ecosystem engineers produce and release inorganic (i.e. calcium carbonate structures) and organic (i.e. mucus and sugars) ...

Key coral reef organisms like hard corals, sponges, or algae act as ecosystem engineers by creating habitats for other organisms and often controlling the availability of resources. Reef ecosystem engineers produce and release inorganic (i.e. calcium carbonate structures) and organic (i.e. mucus and sugars) compounds, and fulfill important biogeochemical functions such as C and N fixation supported by associated microbes. Recent research has revealed that the physiology of reef engineers and their ensuing production of compounds is highly and differently affected by global (e.g., ocean warming and acidification) and local (e.g., eutrophication and overfishing) stressors that likely interact. This implies cascading impacts on reef ecosystem functions and services such as primary productivity, nutrient recycling, coastal protection, provisioning of biodiversity, and human food security. Novel reef ecosystems, increasingly shaped by benthic organisms other than hard corals, likely respond differently to ongoing environmental change resulting in altered ecosystem functions and a potential loss of precious and unique services. This session invites abstracts on the latest findings related to coral reef ecosystem engineers and generation of ecosystem services. It aims to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange about future research priorities and implications for coral reef management.


Keywords: corals, coral reefs, hard corals, marine biodiversity, calcium carbonate, reef engineering, ocean acidification


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