Differential impacts of land-based sources of pollution on the microbiota of southeast Florida coral reefs

Christopher Staley, Thomas Kaiser, Maribeth L. Gidley, Ian C. Enochs, Paul R. Jones, Kelly D. Goodwin, Christopher D. Sinigalliano, Michael J. Sadowsky, Chan Lan Chun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Coral reefs are dynamic ecosystems known for decades to be endangered due, in large part, to anthropogenic impacts from land-based sources of pollution (LBSP). In this study, we utilized an Illumina-based next-generation sequencing approach to characterize prokaryotic and fungal communities from samples collected off the southeast coast of Florida. Water samples from coastal inlet discharges, oceanic outfalls of municipal wastewater treatment plants, treated wastewater effluent before discharge, open ocean samples, and coral tissue samples (mucus and polyps) were characterized to determine the relationships between microbial communities in these matrices and those in reef water and coral tissues. Significant differences in microbial communities were noted among all sample types but varied between sampling areas. Contamination from outfalls was found to be the greatest potential source of LBSP influencing native microbial community structure among all reef samples, although pollution from inlets was also noted. Notably, reef water and coral tissue communities were found to be more greatly impacted by LBSP at southern reefs, which also experienced the most degradation during the course of the study. The results of this study provide new insights into how microbial communities from LBSP can impact coral reefs in southeast Florida and suggest that wastewater outfalls may have a greater influence on the microbial diversity and structure of these reef communities than do contaminants carried in runoff, although the influences of runoff and coastal inlet discharge on coral reefs are still substantial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03378-16
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Coral
  • Land-based sources of pollution
  • Microbial ecology
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Next-generation sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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