Picoplankton foster essential recycling of nutrients in the oligotrophic waters sustaining coral reef ecosys- tems. Despite this fact, there is a paucity of data on how the specific interactions between corals and planktonic bacteria and archaea (picoplankton) contribute to nutrient dynamics and reef productivity. Here, we utilized mesocosm experiments to investigate how corals and coral mucus influence picoplankton and nutrients in reef waters. Over 12 days, we tracked nutrient concentrations, picoplankton abundances and taxonomic composition of picoplankton using direct cell-counts, sequencing of SSU rRNA genes and fluorescent in situ hybridization-based abundances of dominant lineages in the presence or absence of Porites astreoides corals and with mucus additions. Our results demonstrate that when corals are present, Synechococcus, SAR11 and Rhodobacteraceae cells are preferentially removed. When corals were removed, their exudates enhanced the growth of diverse picoplankton, including SAR11 and Rhodobacteraceae. A seven-fold increase in nitrate concentration, possibly caused by nitrogen remineralization (ammonification coupled to nitrification) within the coral holobiont, may have further facilitated the growth of these taxa. In contrast, the addition of mucus resulted in rapid initial growth of total picoplankton and Rhodobacteraceae, but no measurable change in overall community structure. This study presents evidence of the multifaceted influences of corals on picoplankton, in which the coral holobiont selectively removes and promotes the growth of diverse picoplankton and remineralizes nitrogen.
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