Unravelling the different causes of nitrate and ammonium effects on coral bleaching Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractMass coral bleaching represents one of the greatest threats to coral reefs and has mainly been attributed to seawater warming. However, reduced water quality can also interact with warming to increase coral bleaching, but this interaction depends on nutrient ratios and forms. In particular, nitrate (NO3) enrichment reduces thermal tolerance while ammonium (NH4+) enrichment tends to benefit coral health. The biochemical mechanisms underpinning the different bleaching responses of corals exposed to DIN enrichment still need to be investigated. Here, we demonstrated that the coral Stylophora pistillata underwent a severe oxidative stress condition and reduced aerobic scope when exposed to NO3 enrichment combined with thermal stress. Such condition resulted in increased bleaching intensity compared to a low-nitrogen condition. On the contrary, NH4+ enrichment was able to amend the deleterious effects of thermal stress by favoring the oxidative status and energy metabolism of the coral holobiont. Overall, our results demonstrate that the opposite effects of nitrate and ammonium enrichment on coral bleaching are related to the effects on corals’ energy/redox status. As nitrate loading in coastal waters is predicted to significantly increase in the future due to agriculture and land-based pollution, there is the need for urgent management actions to prevent increases in nitrate levels in seawater. In addition, the maintenance of important fish stocks, which provide corals with recycled nitrogen such as ammonium, should be favoured.


  • Fernandes de Barros Marangoni, Laura
  • Ferrier-Pagès, Christine
  • Rottier, Cécile
  • Bianchini, Adalto
  • Grover, Renaud

publication date

  • July 20, 2020