Potential impact of global climate change on benthic deep-sea microbes

Benthic deep-sea environments are the largest ecosystem on Earth, covering ∼65% of the Earth surface. Microbes inhabiting this huge biome at all water depths represent the most abundant biological components and a relevant portion of the biomass of the biosphere, and play a crucial role in global biogeochemical cycles. Increasing evidence suggests that global climate changes are affecting also deep-sea ecosystems, both directly (causing shifts in bottom-water temperature, oxygen concentration and pH) and indirectly (through changes in surface oceans’ productivity and in the consequent export of organic matter to the seafloor). However, the responses of the benthic deep-sea biota to such shifts remain largely unknown. This applies particularly to deep-sea microbes, which include bacteria, archaea, microeukaryotes and their viruses. Understanding the potential impacts of global change on the benthic deep-sea microbial assemblages and the consequences on the functioning of the ocean interior is a priority to better forecast the potential consequences at global scale. Here we explore the potential changes in the benthic deep-sea microbiology expected in the coming decades using case studies on specific systems used as test models.

Danovaro R., Corinaldesi C., Dell’Anno A. & Rastelli E., 2017. Potential impact of global climate change on benthic deep-sea microbes. FEMS Microbiology Letters 364 (23): fnx214. doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnx214. Article.

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