The macroalgal holobiont in a changing sea

Highlights

• Macroalgae and their associated microbiota form a functional unit termed ‘holobiont’, characterized by its complex mutualistic relations. This symbiosis between macroalgae and the microbiota may be disturbed by environmental stressors, resulting in holobiont break-up.

• Current knowledge on the functional consequences of the macroalgal holobiont is limited. Although it becomes increasingly clear that the microbiota is essential for host functioning, bacteria are still considered contaminants rather than a crucial component of the holobiont, and current studies are predominantly focused on the host only.

• Macroalgae fulfil an important ecological function, and the effect of climate change on macroalgae has been a primary focus in recent algal research; however, the role of the microbiota in the hosts’ response to climate change has not yet been addressed.

Abstract

When studying the effects of climate change on eukaryotic organisms we often oversee a major ecological process: the interaction with microbes. Eukaryotic hosts and microbes form functional units, termed holobionts, where microbes play crucial roles in host functioning. Environmental stress may disturb these complex mutualistic relations. Macroalgae form the foundation of coastal ecosystems worldwide and provide important ecosystem services – services they could likely not provide without their microbial associates. Still, today we do not know how environmental stress will affect the macroalgal holobiont in an increasingly changing ocean. In this review, we provide a conceptual framework that contributes to understanding the different levels at which the holobiont and environment interact, and we suggest a manipulative experimental approach as a guideline for future research.

van der Loos L. M., Eriksson B. K. & Salles J. F., in press. The macroalgal holobiont in a changing sea. Trends in Microbiology. Article (subscription required).


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