Articles | Volume 14, issue 24
Biogeosciences, 14, 5765–5774, 2017
Biogeosciences, 14, 5765–5774, 2017

Research article 21 Dec 2017

Research article | 21 Dec 2017

Quantification of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) production in the sea anemone Aiptasia sp. to simulate the sea-to-air flux from coral reefs

Filippo Franchini and Michael Steinke Filippo Franchini and Michael Steinke
  • Coral Reef Research Unit, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, UK

Abstract. The production of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is poorly quantified in tropical reef environments but forms an essential process that couples marine and terrestrial sulfur cycles and affects climate. Here we quantified net aqueous DMS production and the concentration of its cellular precursor dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in the sea anemone Aiptasia sp., a model organism to study coral-related processes. Bleached anemones did not show net DMS production whereas symbiotic anemones produced DMS concentrations (mean ± standard error) of 160.7 ± 44.22 nmol g−1 dry weight (DW) after 48 h incubation. Symbiotic and bleached individuals showed DMSP concentrations of 32.7 ± 6.00 and 0.6 ± 0.19 µmol g−1 DW, respectively. We applied these findings to a Monte Carlo simulation to demonstrate that net aqueous DMS production accounts for only 20 % of gross aqueous DMS production. Monte Carlo-based estimations of sea-to-air fluxes of gaseous DMS showed that reefs may release 0.1 to 26.3 µmol DMS m−2 coral surface area (CSA) d−1 into the atmosphere with 40 % probability for rates between 0.5 and 1.5 µmol m−2 CSA d−1. These predictions were in agreement with directly quantified fluxes in previous studies. Conversion to a flux normalised to sea surface area (SSA) (range 0.1 to 17.4, with the highest probability for 0.3 to 1.0 µmol DMS m−2 SSA d−1) suggests that coral reefs emit gaseous DMS at lower rates than the average global oceanic DMS flux of 4.6 µmol m−2 SSA d−1 (19.6 Tg sulfur per year). The large difference between simulated gross and quantified net aqueous DMS production in corals suggests that the current and future potential for its production in tropical reefs is critically governed by DMS consumption processes. Hence, more research is required to assess the sensitivity of DMS-consumption pathways to ongoing environmental change in order to address the impact of predicted degradation of coral reefs on DMS production in tropical coastal ecosystems and its impact on future atmospheric DMS concentrations and climate.

Short summary
Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is a biogenic gas known to many as the 'smell of the sea' but it also stimulates the formation of clouds and cools our planet. Few data are available on its production along tropical coasts and here we quantify DMS in a sea anemone. We then use this information to simulate the release of DMS in coral reefs and highlight that we lack information on DMS-consumption processes if we were to quantify the effect of environmental change on DMS emission from tropical reefs.
Final-revised paper