Shallow water marine sediment bacterial community shifts along a natural CO2 gradient in the Mediterranean Sea off Vulcano, Italy

The effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 on ocean ecosystems are a major environmental concern, as rapid shoaling of the carbonate saturation horizon is exposing vast areas of marine sediments to corrosive waters worldwide. Natural CO2 gradients off Vulcano, Italy, have revealed profound ecosystem changes along rocky shore habitats as carbonate saturation levels decrease, but no investigations have yet been made of the sedimentary habitat. Here, we sampled the upper 2 cm of volcanic sand in three zones, ambient (median pCO2 419 μatm, minimum Ωarag 3.77), moderately CO2-enriched (median pCO2 592 μatm, minimum Ωarag 2.96), and highly CO2-enriched (median pCO2 1611 μatm, minimum Ωarag 0.35). We tested the hypothesis that increasing levels of seawater pCO2 would cause significant shifts in sediment bacterial community composition, as shown recently in epilithic biofilms at the study site. In this study, 454 pyrosequencing of the V1 to V3 region of the 16S rRNA gene revealed a shift in community composition with increasing pCO2. The relative abundances of most of the dominant genera were unaffected by the pCO2 gradient, although there were significant differences for some 5 % of the genera present (viz. Georgenia, Lutibacter, Photobacterium, Acinetobacter, and Paenibacillus), and Shannon Diversity was greatest in sediments subject to long-term acidification (>100 years). Overall, this supports the view that globally increased ocean pCO2 will be associated with changes in sediment bacterial community composition but that most of these organisms are resilient. However, further work is required to assess whether these results apply to other types of coastal sediments and whether the changes in relative abundance of bacterial taxa that we observed can significantly alter the biogeochemical functions of marine sediments.

Kerfahi D., Hall-Spencer J. M., Tripathi B. M., Milazzo M., Lee J. & Adams J. M., in press. Shallow water marine sediment bacterial community shifts along a natural CO2 gradient in the Mediterranean Sea off Vulcano, Italy. Microbial Ecology. Article (restricted access).

2 Responses to “Shallow water marine sediment bacterial community shifts along a natural CO2 gradient in the Mediterranean Sea off Vulcano, Italy”


  1. 1 Jason hall-Spencer 13 February 2014 at 14:43

    The .pdf can be downloaded here

    http://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/handle/10026.1/2886

    • 2 olgaanghelici 13 February 2014 at 16:44

      Thank you!


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