Bacterial communities are more sensitive to ocean acidification than fungal communities in estuarine sediments

Ocean acidification (OA) in estuaries is becoming a global concern, and may affect microbial characteristics in estuarine sediments. Bacterial communities in response to acidification in this habitat have been well discussed; however, knowledge about how fungal communities respond to OA remains poorly understood. Here, we explored the effects of acidification on bacterial and fungal activities, structures and functions in estuarine sediments during a 50-day incubation experiment. Under acidified conditions, activities of three extracellular enzymes related to nutrient cycling were inhibited and basal respiration rates were decreased. Acidification significantly altered bacterial communities and their interactions, while weak alkalization had a minor impact on fungal communities. We distinguished pH-sensitive/tolerant bacteria and fungi in estuarine sediments, and found that only pH-sensitive/tolerant bacteria had strong correlations with sediment basal respiration activity. FUNGuild analysis indicated that animal pathogen abundances in sediment were greatly increased by acidification, while plant pathogens were unaffected. High-throughput quantitative PCR-based SmartChip analysis suggested that the nutrient cycling-related multifunctionality of sediments was reduced under acidified conditions. Most functional genes associated with nutrient cycling were identified in bacterial communities and their relative abundances were decreased by acidification. These new findings highlight that acidification in estuarine regions affects bacterial and fungal communities differently, increases potential pathogens and disrupts bacteria-mediated nutrient cycling.

Su X., Yang X., Li H., Wang H., Wang Y., Xu J., Ding K. & Zhu Y.-G., 2021. Bacterial communities are more sensitive to ocean acidification than fungal communities in estuarine sediments. FEMS Microbiology Ecology: fiab058. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiab058. Article (subscription required).

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