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Growth and death in bacterial communities

May 21, 2019

The coastal waters of the Red Sea have enough resources to support bacterial growth, but predation by protistan grazers limits the population, according to new research from KAUST. Since bacteria are vital players in the marine food web, determining the factors that affect their growth and abundance is critical to understanding marine ecosystems and how they will respond to climate change.

#Discovery

Mangrove forests trap floating litter

May 13, 2019

Mangrove forests on the coasts of Saudi Arabia act as litter traps, accumulating plastic debris from the marine environment, according to new research from KAUST. The study offers an explanation for the fate of missing marine plastic litter and highlights the threat it poses to coastal ecosystems.

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Bacterial mix helps predict future change

Apr 15, 2019

A controlled, laboratory approach, along with computer simulations, has helped KAUST researchers to show that bacterial communities can homogenously disperse within aquatic ecosystems even with slow flowing water and the persistence of their preferred, localized conditions.

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Global study shows exotic species are a complex threat

Apr 08, 2019

When species are introduced by humans into marine habitats, they can disrupt their new environment, according to a study at KAUST, which also identified key species for conservation efforts to focus on.

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Speargrass recruit sandy microbes for help

Mar 13, 2019

Sticky, sandy sheaths surrounding the roots of three speargrass species growing in the Namib Desert recruit whatever growth-promoting bacteria are available in the surrounding sand. This is contrary to the more specialized root sheaths of plants growing in resource-rich soils, where different plant species recruit different types of bacteria.

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The fiddlers influencing mangrove ecosystems

Mar 11, 2019

The types of bacteria present in and around mangrove fiddler crab burrows in three different geographic locations were compared by KAUST researchers. They found that the crabs' burrowing activity changed the sediment in a way that attracted different types of bacteria across the three locations: however, the bacteria performed similar functions, such as aerobic respiration, and ecological services, such as turnover of organic matter.

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Plankton communities' warm response to nutrient availability

Nov 18, 2018

Microbial plankton communities will be boosted in productivity and biomass from warmer water temperatures provided sufficient nutrients are also readily available, suggest KAUST researchers.
The response of marine ecosystems to global warming depends on complex factors. The growth rates and activity of plankton communities are largely dictated by nutrient availability (bottom-up control), predation (top-down control) and changes in water temperature.

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Cryptic coral reef creatures show cross-shelf biodiversity patterns

Oct 01, 2018

Cryptic fauna—small organisms that inhabit the hidden spaces within a reef structure—represent a substantial proportion of the diversity within coral reefs but are typically neglected in traditional visual surveys, which tend to focus on large and conspicuous species, such as fish and corals.

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Anemones rely on epigenetics during symbiosis

Aug 16, 2018

Anemones use epigenetic mechanisms to regulate the expression of genes involved in their symbiosis with photosynthetic algae, according to new research from KAUST. The same mechanisms may help them respond to environmental stress and could be harnessed to improve the resilience of anemones and corals to the challenges posed by climate change.
A team at KAUST have sequenced anemone genomes using a technique that detects DNA methylation, a chemical tag attached to DNA that affects gene expression without altering the genetic sequence. They found that nearly 40 percent of anemone genes were methylated and that the methylation level of a gene correlated with its expression level.

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Bacteria that boost plant pumps against drought

Jul 31, 2018

Two types of bacteria known for their growth-promoting properties improved chili plant resistance to drought. They do this partially through their role in over-activating a pump present in the vacuolar membrane of root cells that ultimately facilitates water uptake from soil.
Microbial ecologist, Daniele Daffonchio, and colleagues at KAUST and in Italy investigated whether bacteria that can confer drought resistance in plants have an effect on a cellular vacuolar proton pump that helps roots take up more water from the soil.

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Red Sea flushes faster from far flung volcanoes

Jul 29, 2018

Deep water in the Red Sea gets replenished much faster than previously thought and its circulation is directly affected by major climatic events, including volcanic eruptions, KAUST researchers have found.
Waters occupying depths from 300 to 2000 meters in the Red Sea are recognized as the warmest and saltiest deep water in the world, with near-homogenous temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius and salinities higher than 40.5 practical salinity units (psu). The world average for similar depths is 2.5 degrees Celsius and 35 psu.

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Keeping up with sea-level rise

Jul 15, 2018

Soil accumulation in coastal ecosystems could mitigate rising sea levels around the Arabian Peninsula, according to new research from KAUST. However, this mitigation will require efforts to preserve and restore these ecosystems.
Human-driven climate change is raising sea levels around the world at increasing rates, threatening hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas. Researchers at KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center worked with colleagues at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals to determine whether this increase could be mitigated by soil accretion in coastal ecosystems.

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Mysterious gentle giants gather off Saudi coast

Jul 08, 2018

The availability of tiny prey near a coral reef in the eastern Red Sea seems not to be the reason that whale sharks aggregate there every spring.
In recent years, juvenile whale sharks have been discovered gathering at a coral reef, 4 kilometers off the coast of Saudi Arabia between February and May. This provides the opportunity for scientists at KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center to study their behaviors.
“Whale sharks are under threat from targeted fisheries and as bycatch and are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List,” says Ph.D. student Aya Hozumi. “However, we have limited understanding of their ecology and life history, which poses a challenge to conservation efforts.”

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Remote corals pay the price of climate change

Jul 01, 2018

The coral reefs of a Samoan island in the remote southwest Pacific are in a surprisingly poor condition, highlighting the far-reaching impacts of climate change.

KAUST marine scientists joined colleagues on the research schooner Tara to examine the impacts of climate change on coral reefs surrounding Upolu, an island just 74 kilometers long and 24 kilometers wide, home to about 135,000 Samoans.

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Anemones take the heat with a little help from their friends

Jun 17, 2018

A core set of heat-stress-response genes has been identified in anemones in a study that also highlights the role of symbiotic algae in coping with temperature, an important revelation for planning conservation efforts.
Researchers from KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center profiled gene transcripts and proteins expressed by sea anemones—three strains of the model organism Aiptasia pallida—from locations that experience different temperatures throughout the year: North Carolina, Hawaii and the Red Sea.

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