Effects of ocean warming on the underexplored members of the coral microbiome

Justin Maire*, Patrick Buerger, Wing Yan Chan, Pranali Deore, Ashley M. Dungan, Matthew R. Nitschke, Madeleine J. H. van Oppen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The climate crisis is one of the most significant threats to marine ecosystems. It is leading to severe increases in sea surface temperatures and in the frequency and magnitude of marine heatwaves. These changing conditions are directly impacting coral reef ecosystems, which are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. Coral-associated symbionts are particularly affected because summer heatwaves cause coral bleaching—the loss of endosymbiotic microalgae (Symbiodiniaceae) from coral tissues, leading to coral starvation and death. Coral-associated Symbiodiniaceae and bacteria have been extensively studied in the context of climate change, especially in terms of community diversity and dynamics. However, data on other microorganisms and their response to climate change are scarce. Here, we review current knowledge on how increasing temperatures affect understudied coral-associated microorganisms such as archaea, fungi, viruses, and protists other than Symbiodiniaceae, as well as microbe-microbe interactions. We show that the coral-microbe symbiosis equilibrium is at risk under current and predicted future climate change and argue that coral reef conservation initiatives should include microbe-focused approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1700-1709
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number6
Early online date8 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Coral
  • Microbiome
  • Climate change
  • Symbiosis


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