Resource competition in the cnidarian-algal symbiosis
Ocean warming is causing repeated mass bleaching of corals. This breakdown of the cnidarian-algal symbiosis is eroding the foundation of coral reef ecosystems and has prompted global reef degradation in recent decades. Our ability to slow or even revert this decline has been hampered by an incomplete understanding of the processes underlying the maintenance and breakdown of this symbiosis.
Our research is motivated by the idea that this symbiosis can only be understood in light of its ecological basis: the nutrient exchange between host and symbiont. Coupling Imaging, NanoSIMS, and OMICS approaches, we study how environmental conditions shape the metabolic crosstalk in the symbiosis. By interpreting the functioning of the cnidarian-algal symbiosis as a passive consequence of symbiotic resource competition, we aim to develop a new ecological perspective of coral bleaching. Thereby, our research could help to identify new strategies to predict or mitigate further reef loss in the future.