To determine whether coral reef sponges can acclimatise to future climate conditions, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms used by both host and symbionts to cope with ocean warming and ocean acidification. For instance, environmentally induced changes in the host-associated microbiome may enable rapid acclimatisation by altering the cycling of various nutrients in ways that increase host fitness. This knowledge may also allow us to harness these intrinsic mechanisms to increase climate resilience and mitigate further ecosystem degradation. In this project we experimentally exposed the sponge Ircinia ramosa to temperature and pCO2 conditions projected for current day, 2050 and 2100 to determine its capacity to acclimatise to future climate conditions. Analysis of I. ramosa growth and photosynthesis data shows it is generally tolerant of climate conditions projected for 2100, with growth and acclimatisation evident despite impaired photophysiology. Current research is analysing the host and symbiont transcriptomic responses to treatment conditions to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underpinning this acclimatisation response.

Chief Investigator: Prof. Nicole Webster
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology:
A/Prof. Manuel Aranda (Principal Investigator)
Australian Institute of Marine Science:
Dr. Patrick Laffy (Research Scientist), Ms. Sara Bell (Experimental Scientist)
Mr. Marko Terzin (Masters Student)
climate change


Australian Centre for Ecogenomics
Level 5, Molecular Biosciences Bldg
University of Queensland
Brisbane, Australia

Stay connected


© 2010-2022 Australian Centre for Ecogenomics