Dissolved Organic Matter in Coral Reefs: Distribution, Production, and Bacterial Consumption

  • Yasuaki TanakaEmail author
  • Ryota Nakajima
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 13)


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) constitutes the largest organic matter pool in coral reef waters and is released and utilized by various coral reef organisms. In this chapter, we review the distribution and fluctuation of DOM concentrations in coral reefs around the world, with a special focus on Shiraho Reef, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan, where DOM fluxes have been studied most intensively since the late 1990s. Then, we review the DOM production rates from specific reef organisms and DOM consumption rates by bacteria. Previous studies have shown that both dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen (DOC and DON, respectively) generally have a higher concentration in most coral reefs than in the surrounding ocean. At Shiraho Reef, the average ratio of the net DOC production to the net primary production on the reef flat was 18%, and the C:N ratio of DOM that was produced on the reef flat was estimated to be 9.3. The abundance of heterotrophic bacteria was also higher in most coral reefs than offshore, which indicates that bacterial growth was enhanced by reef-derived DOM. Some of the DOC that was produced in coral reefs was persistent to bacterial decomposition in the long term, which suggests that coral reef ecosystems export some reef-derived DOM to the ambient ocean, irrespective of the water residence time in the reef.


DOM C:N ratio Biogeochemical cycles Nutrients Coral Benthic algae Phytoplankton Primary production Decomposition Refractory organic matter 



We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers who gave us plenty of valuable comments to improve this article. This study was supported by Brunei Research Council (S&T-14), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Asian CORE Program, and JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowships for Research Abroad.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ScienceUniversiti Brunei DarussalamGadongBrunei Darussalam
  2. 2.Scripps Institution of OceanographyLa JollaUSA

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