Impact of environmental factors on bacterioplankton communities

Aquatic bacteria are main drivers of biogeochemical cycles and contribute predominantly to organic matter and nutrient recycling. As a high biodiversity is assumed to stabilize ecosystem functioning, it is necessary to understand the bacterial community dynamics and their structuring factors. It is known that different taxa are dominant across different habitats and seasons. This indicates an occurrence of species sorting by community structuring environmental factors. A first attempt for the understanding of bacterial distribution is to test for a correlation between microbial composition and measured environmental variables. In order to get further insights into the impact of environmental factors on bacterial communities, this thesis assessed the influence of major structuring drivers by using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, bacterial bulk parameters and interdisciplinary approaches in laboratory experiments and field studies.

In a field study in the Benguela upwelling system, the influence of different levels of primary production and the planktonic succession on bacterial community composition and its development was investigated. Community analysis revealed a clustering of different microbial assemblages along aging upwelled water. This zonation was mainly driven by phytoplankton composition and abundance and the spatial differences were comparable with a temporal succession that occurs during phytoplankton blooms in temperate coastal waters. A dominance of Bacteroidetes and Gammaproteobacteria was observed during algal blooming and high abundance of “Pelagibacterales” was found in regions with low algal abundance. Overall, this study highlightes the strong impact of quality and quantity of phytoplankton and nutrients on the bacterial communities.

A laboratory experiment with Baltic Sea water was performed to better understand the potential impact of rising temperature and CO2 on planktonic bacteria. The development of the bacterial community composition was followed in bifactorial mesocosm experiments during a diatom bloom in autumn and a phytoplankton bloom in summer. The results confirmed that phytoplankton succession and temperature were the major variables structuring the bacterial community. The impact of CO2 on the broad community was weak but high-resolution community analyses revealed a strong effect on specific bacterial groups, which might play important roles in specific organic matter degradation processes.

The response of bacterial communities to a disturbance by a saline intrusion could be investigated during a major Baltic inflow event. Community structuring factors were dominated by mixing of the inflow water with the former bottom water. Although the inflow had a selecting effect on the bacterial community, some immigrated taxa showed increased potential activity and seem to profit from changing environmental conditions. These results suggest a potential impact of inflow events on bacterial functions and therefore on biogeochemical processes.

Altogether, the results confirm the strong structuring effects of environmental conditions on bacterial community composition. Furthermore, high-resolution sequencing enabled an identification of specific affected taxa, which in turn give first clues for the impact of the investigated factors on specific bacterial functions.

Bergen B., 2016. Impact of environmental factors on bacterioplankton communities. PhD thesis, Universität Rostock, 140 p. Thesis. 

 

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