Ocean acidification has a strong effect on communities living on plastic in mesocosms

We conducted a mesocosm experiment to examine how ocean acidification (OA) affects communities of prokaryotes and eukaryotes growing on single-use drinking bottles in subtropical eutrophic waters of the East China Sea. Based on 16S rDNA gene sequencing, simulated high CO2 significantly altered the prokaryotic community, with the relative abundance of the phylum Planctomycetota increasing by 49%. Under high CO2, prokaryotes in the plastisphere had enhanced nitrogen dissimilation and ureolysis, raising the possibility that OA may modify nutrient cycling in subtropical eutrophic waters. The relative abundance of pathogenic and animal parasite bacteria also increased under simulated high CO2. Our results show that elevated CO2 levels significantly affected several animal taxa based on 18S rDNA gene sequencing. For example, Mayorella amoebae were highly resistant, whereas Labyrinthula were sensitive to OA. Thus, OA may alter plastisphere food chains in subtropical eutrophic waters.

Scientific Significance Statement

Plastic waste in the ocean is an urgent environmental concern and has given rise to a novel habitat, known as the “plastisphere.” Under ocean acidification (OA), changes in plastisphere community composition may alter plastic degradation, deposition, and passage through food webs, but these have not been studied yet. This is the first study about the effects of simulated high CO2 on the plastisphere using a mesocosm. We discovered that after 1 month the beta diversity of prokaryotic communities living on single-use plastic drinking bottles was significantly different under different carbon dioxide concentrations, with more pathogens at high CO2. Based on function prediction analysis, the relative abundance of bacterial taxa involved in nitrogen and nitrate respiration and ureolysis was significantly higher under simulated high CO2. We conclude that OA has significant effects on the plastisphere and its predicted functions.

Zhang X., Zhang P., Deng Z., Huang R., Zhang D., Tian Y., Wang N., Li H., Wang X., Jiang X., Sun J., Fu Q., Yi X., Qu L., Zhou C., Rao Y., Zeng X., Hall-Spencer J. M., Gao G., Gao K. & Lin X., in press. Ocean acidification has a strong effect on communities living on plastic in mesocosms. Limnology and Oceanography Letters. Article.

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