Microbial dynamics in shallow CO2 seeps system off Panarea Island (Italy)

Shallow-water hydrothermal vents are extreme environments characterized by high temperatures, low pH, and high CO2 concentrations; therefore, they are considered as suitable laboratories for studying the effect of global changes on marine microbes. We hypothesized a direct effect of vents on prokaryotic community structure and functioning in the Panarea Island’s hydrothermal system. Sampling was conducted along a 9-station transect characterized by three active emission points. The water column was stratified with a thermocline at 25 m depth and a deep chlorophyll maximum between 50 and 100 m. Prokaryotic abundance ranged from 0.2 to 1.5 × 109 cells L−1, prokaryotic carbon production from 2.4 to 75.4 ng C L−1 h−1, and exoenzymatic activities degrading proteins, phosphorylated compounds, and polysaccharides were on the order of 4–28, 2–31 and 0.2–4.16 nM h−1, respectively. While microbial abundance and production were shaped by the water column’s physical structure, alkaline phosphatase and beta-glucosidase activities seemed to be enhanced by hydrothermal fluids. The 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing analysis identified a surface, a deep, and a vent-influenced microbial community. In terms of relative abundance members of the SAR11 group dominated the water column, alongside Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus in surface and bottom samples, respectively. Vent-influenced stations were characterized by the presence of Thiomicrorhabdus, a sulfur-oxidizer chemolithoautotroph. Overall, this study provides insights on the coupling between microbial community structure and the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients in low-pH conditions (CO2 and H2S-based), thus addressing some of the opened questions about the response of microbes to acidification.

Saidi A., Banchi E., Fonti V., Manna V., De Vittor C., Giani M., Malfatti F. & Celussi M., 2023. Microbial dynamics in shallow CO2 seeps system off Panarea Island (Italy). Marine Biology 170: 97. doi: 10.1007/s00227-023-04247-8. Article.

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