Air exposure of coral is a significant source of dimethylsulfide (DMS) to the atmosphere

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2016, 6
Issue Date:
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© The Author(s) 2016. Corals are prolific producers of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). High atmospheric concentrations of the DMSP breakdown product dimethylsulfide (DMS) have been linked to coral reefs during low tides. DMS is a potentially key sulfur source to the tropical atmosphere, but DMS emission from corals during tidal exposure is not well quantified. Here we show that gas phase DMS concentrations (DMS gas) increased by an order of magnitude when three Indo-Pacific corals were exposed to air in laboratory experiments. Upon re-submersion, an additional rapid rise in DMS gas was observed, reflecting increased production by the coral and/or dissolution of DMS-rich mucus formed by the coral during air exposure. Depletion in DMS following re-submersion was likely due to biologically-driven conversion of DMS to dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO). Fast Repetition Rate fluorometry showed downregulated photosynthesis during air exposure but rapid recovery upon re-submersion, suggesting that DMS enhances coral tolerance to oxidative stress during a process that can induce photoinhibition. We estimate that DMS emission from exposed coral reefs may be comparable in magnitude to emissions from other marine DMS hotspots. Coral DMS emission likely comprises a regular and significant source of sulfur to the tropical marine atmosphere, which is currently unrecognised in global DMS emission estimates and Earth System Models.
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