Diel metabolism of Yellow Sea green tide algae alters bacterial community composition under in situ seawater acidification of coastal areas


  • Metabolism of algae mat leads to a diel pH and CO2 fluctuation in affected seawater.
  • Bacterial communities in diffusive boundary layer of the algae had a diel change.
  • Flavobacteriaceae was shown increased at night but sharp decreased at daytime.
  • Harmful algal bloom might influence coastal ocean acidification.


Ocean acidification in coastal seawaters is a complex process, with coastal pH being affected by numerous factors including watershed and biological processes that also support metabolically diverse bacterial communities. The world’s largest macroalgal blooms have occurred consecutively in the Yellow Sea over the last 13 years. In particular, algal mats formed by Yellow Sea green tides (YSGT) significantly influence coastal environments. Herein, we hypothesized that 1) inorganic carbonate chemistry in coastal areas is altered by diel metabolism of these giant algal mats and that 2) bacterial community composition in diffusive boundary layers might be altered along diel cycles due to algal mat metabolism. In situ studies indicated that algal mat metabolism led to changes in diel pH and CO2 in affected seawaters. Such metabolic activities could intensify diel pH fluctuations in algal mat diffusive boundary layers, as noted by pH fluctuations of 0.22 ± 0.01 units, and pCO2 fluctuations of 214.62 ± 29.37 μatm per day. In contrast, pH fluctuations of 0.11 ± 0.02 units and pCO2 fluctuations of 79.02 ± 42.70 μatm were noted in unaffected areas. Furthermore, the bacterial community composition associated with diffusive algal boundary layers, including those of ambient bacteria and epiphytic bacteria, exhibited diel changes, while endophytic bacterial communities were relatively stable. Flavobacteriaceae were particularly highly abundant taxa in the ambient and epiphytic bacterial communities and exhibited increased abundances at night but sharp decreases in abundances during daytime. Flavobacteriaceae are heterotrophic taxa that could contribute to coastal area acidification at night due to the transformation of organic carbon to inorganic carbon. These results provide new insights to understand the variability in coastal ocean acidification via harmful algal blooms while providing a framework for evaluating the effects of YSGT on costal carbon cycling.

Hou C., Qu T., Zhao X., Xu J., Zhong Y., Guan C., Zhang H., Lin Z., Tang X. & Wang Y., 2021. Diel metabolism of Yellow Sea green tide algae alters bacterial community composition under in situ seawater acidification of coastal areas. Science of the Total Environment: 150759. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150759. Article (subscription required).

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