We study various species of hermatypic scleractinians, more precisely, Pocilloporidae (Stylophora pistillata, Pocillopora damicornis and Seriatopora hystrix) and Acroporidae (Acropora muricata, A. digitifera, A. tumida, A. millepora, ...) in artificial mesocosms.
We are particularly interested by the growth of coral colonies and their skelettogenesis according to the fluctuation of environmental parameters. We study, of course, this growth in relationship with global climatic changes (temperature increase, ocean acidification) and eutrophication. But we also study this growth in a broader framework aiming to understand the major ecological properties of a coral holobiont.
Hermatypic scleractinians are key organisms as coral reef builders; Coral reefs form one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on our planet. Hermatypic corals live in symbiosis with a dinoflagellate (Symbiodinium sp) present inside the cells of their oral gastrodermis and provide a large part of the energy required by the coral through photosynthesis, which greatly enhances their potential to precipitate calcium carbonate in their skeleton. On the other hand, recent studies reveal the importance of other micro-organisms in the coral mucus. Thus, the coral holobiont is a complex entity with multiple symbiotic associations. It is on the final balance and ecological response of these complex interactions that our research group is targeting its research activity. The ecophysiology of this holobiont is studied in a specially designed experimental device: a new kind of chemostat.
Our scientific publications relating to this research topic are collected in the ULB-UMONS institutional database DI-Fusion .
PhD and Master theses and premaster placements in our laboratory in relationship with corals:
After a first meeting of Belgian scientists working on corals or coral reefs, organized at ULG in 2009, the "Second Belgian Coral Meeting" was organized at UMONS in February 2011 by our laboratory. The meeting programme is downloadable here.
Where do our corals come from? All the coral frags we use in our experiments come from our own production, inside our artificial mesocosms. Mother colonies were imported with CITES certificate, and then, they are grown and fragmented to produce clones perfectly adapted to the artificial environment of our mesocosms. Their growth is outstanding: up to 1.5%/day in skeleton growth for Seriatopora hystrix.
Artificial mesocosms: small-scale artificial coral reefs.
Patented chemostats: experimental devices allowing to control and monitor simultaneously environmental parameters and the ecophysiology of coral holobionts.