Culture systems influence the physiological performance of the soft coral Sarcophyton glaucum
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Culture systems influence the physiological performance of the soft coral Sarcophyton glaucum
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  • Source:
    Scientific Reports, 10(1)
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  • Description:
    There is an urgent need to develop means of ex situ biobanking and biopreserving corals and other marine organisms whose habitats have been compromised by climate change and other anthropogenic stressors. To optimize laboratory growth of soft corals in a way that could also benefit industry (e.g., aquarium trade), three culture systems were tested herein with Sarcophyton glaucum: (1) a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) without exogenous biological input (RAS−B), (2) a RAS with “live” rocks and an exogenous food supply (RAS+B), and (3) a simple flow-through system (FTS) featuring partially filtered natural seawater. In each system, the effects of two levels of photosynthetically active radiation (100 or 200 μmol quanta m−2 s−1) and flow velocity (5 or 15 cm s−1) were assessed, and a number of soft coral response variables were measured. All cultured corals survived the multi-month incubation, yet those of the RAS−B grew slowly and even paled; however, once they were fed (RAS−B modified to RAS+B), their pigmentation increased, and their oral discs readily expanded. Light had a more pronounced effect in the RAS−B system, while flow affected certain coral response variables in the FTS tanks; there were few effects of light or flow in the RAS+B system, potentially highlighting the importance of heterotrophy. Unlike the ceramic pedestals of the FTS, those of the RAS+B did not regularly become biofouled by algae. In concert with the aforementioned physiological findings, we therefore recommend RAS+B systems as a superior means of biopreservating and biobanking soft corals.
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