Urbanization comprehensively impairs biological rhythms in coral holobionts

Yaeli Rosenberg, Noa Simon-Blecher, Maya Lalzar, Ruth Yam, Aldo Shemesh, Shahar Alon, Gabriela Perna, Anny Cárdenas, Christian R. Voolstra, David J. Miller, Oren Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Coral reefs are in global decline due to climate change and anthropogenic influences (Hughes et al., Conservation Biology, 27: 261–269, 2013). Near coastal cities or other densely populated areas, coral reefs face a range of additional challenges. While considerable progress has been made in understanding coral responses to acute individual stressors (Dominoni et al., Nature Ecology & Evolution, 4: 502–511, 2020), the impacts of chronic exposure to varying combinations of sensory pollutants are largely unknown. To investigate the impacts of urban proximity on corals, we conducted a year-long in-natura study—incorporating sampling at diel, monthly, and seasonal time points—in which we compared corals from an urban area to corals from a proximal non-urban area. Here we reveal that despite appearing relatively healthy, natural biorhythms and environmental sensory systems were extensively disturbed in corals from the urban environment. Transcriptomic data indicated poor symbiont performance, disturbance to gametogenic cycles, and loss or shifted seasonality of vital biological processes. Altered seasonality patterns were also observed in the microbiomes of the urban coral population, signifying the impact of urbanization on the holobiont, rather than the coral host alone. These results should raise alarm regarding the largely unknown long-term impacts of sensory pollution on the resilience and survival of coral reefs close to coastal communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3349-3364
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number10
Early online date25 Feb 2022
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Israeli Science Foundation (ISF), grant number 3928 (OL). Israeli Science Foundation (ISF), grant number 3928 (OL). We would like to thank the staff and students at the Interuniversity Institute (IUI) for Marine Sciences in Eilat for their hospitality and assistance with the fieldwork. Genadi Zalzman and Ofir Hameiri for assisting in diving. Or Ben-Zvi and Tom Shlesinger for helping with sampling and Raz Tamir for performing the light measurements. Bioinformatics analyses were performed by Tal Yahav and Assaf Malik, Bioinformatics Services Unit, University of Haifa and by Anny Cardenas. Computations presented in this work were performed on the Hive computer cluster at the University of Haifa. We would like to thank Dr. Noa Alon for graphical assistance and illustrations and Prof. Graeme Cumming for his comments and help in finalizing this manuscript.

FundersFunder number
Interuniversity Institute
Israel Science Foundation3928
University of Haifa


    • biological rhythms
    • coral holobiont
    • coral reef
    • coral reef decline
    • molecular ecology
    • urbanization


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