Seagrass biofilm communities at a naturally CO2-rich vent

Seagrass meadows are a crucial component of tropical marine reef ecosystems. Seagrass plants are colonized by a multitude of epiphytic organisms that contribute to broadening the ecological role of seagrasses. To better understand how environmental changes like ocean acidification might affect epiphytic assemblages, the microbial community composition of the epiphytic biofilm of Enhalus acroides was investigated at a natural CO2 vent in Papua New Guinea using molecular fingerprinting and next generation sequencing of 16S and 18S rRNA genes. Both bacterial and eukaryotic epiphytes formed distinct communities at the CO2-impacted site compared to the control site. This site-related CO2 effect was also visible in the succession pattern of microbial epiphytes. We further found an increased abundance of bacterial types associated with coral diseases at the CO2-impacted site (Fusobacteria, Thalassomonas) whereas eukaryotes such as certain crustose coralline algae commonly related to healthy reefs were less diverse. These trends in the epiphytic community of E. acroides suggest a potential role of seagrasses as vectors of coral pathogens and may support previous predictions of a decrease in reef health and prevalence of diseases under future ocean acidification scenarios.

Hassenrück C., Hofmann L. C., Bischof K. & Ramette A., in press. Seagrass biofilm communities at a naturally CO2-rich vent. Environmental Microbiology Reports. Article (subscription required).

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