Research Topic

Optics and Ecophysiology of Coral Reef Organisms

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Light is arguably the most important factor driving the evolutionary success of coral reefs. Solar energy is the prime force underlying the symbiotic interaction between phototrophic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium and the heterotrophic coral animal host. Light is also the major energy source for an ...

Light is arguably the most important factor driving the evolutionary success of coral reefs. Solar energy is the prime force underlying the symbiotic interaction between phototrophic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium and the heterotrophic coral animal host. Light is also the major energy source for an enormous number of key coral reef organisms other than scleractinian corals, such as crustose coralline algae, sponges, foraminifera, epi- and endo-lithic phototrophic biofilms. Despite the fundamental role of solar energy in sustaining the growth and productivity of coral reefs, the physical interaction between light and reef organisms is often treated in insufficient detail. For instance, several physical properties of sunlight, such as the spectral and directional characteristics, as well as the high temporal and spatial variability, can strongly modulate the photosynthetic response of reef organisms, yet are often ignored. Likewise, the optical properties of reef organisms, such as the scattering properties of their photosynthetic tissues, the presence of fluorescent pigments and the structural properties of their calcium carbonate skeleton can strongly modulate light absorption and photosynthesis.

Interactions between the optical and biological properties of corals and also other reef-associated organisms represent a significant knowledge gap and limitation in understanding the biology and ecology of coral reefs in general and may hold the key to the resilience of many coral reef organisms. There exists, however, a major body of knowledge on ocean optics and likewise much is known regarding the photochemistry and molecular biology of light absorption in certain reef organisms. Thus, with this Research Topic we seek to bring together a broad suite of studies that explore linkages between optics and biology on coral reefs. We welcome contributions that assess this topic area on all spatial and temporal scales for photosynthetic benthic reef organisms and communities. We also invite papers on the application of novel optical techniques that can provide new approaches to understanding coral reef ecophysiology. Original studies, (mini) reviews as well as opinion papers are welcome.


Keywords: coral, light, symbiosis, optics, ecophysiology


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