Deciphering the evolvement of microbial communities from hydrothermal vent sediments in a global change perspective

Microbial communities first respond to changes of external environmental conditions. Observing the microbial responses to environmental changes in terms of taxonomic and functional biodiversity is therefore of great interest, particularly in extreme environments, where the already extreme conditions can become even harsher. In this study, sediment samples from three different shallow hydrothermal vents in Levante Bay (Vulcano Island, Aeolian Islands, Italy) were used to set up microcosm experiments with the aim to explore the microbial dynamics under changing conditions of pH and redox potential over a 90-days period. The leading hypothesis was to establish under microcosm conditions whether the starting microbial communities of the sediments evolved differently depending on their origin. To profile the dynamics of microbial populations over time, biodiversity, enzymatic profile, total cell abundance estimations, total/respiring cell ratio were estimated by using different approaches. An evident change in the microbial community structure was observed, mainly in the microcosm containing the sediment from the most acidified site, which was characterized by a highly diversified microbial community (in prevalence composed of ThermotogaDesulfobacterotaPlanctomycetotaSynergistota and Deferribacterota). An increase in microbial resistant forms (e.g., spore-forming species) with anaerobic metabolism was detected in all experimental conditions. Differential physiological responses characterized the sedimentary microbial communities. Proteolytic activity appeared to be stimulated under microcosm conditions, whereas the alkaline phosphatase activity was significantly depressed at low pH values, like those that were measured at the station showing intermediate pH-conditions. The results confirmed a differential response of microbial communities depending on the starting environmental conditions.

Rizzo C., Arcadi E., Calogero R., Ciro Rappazzo A., Caruso G., Maimone G., Giudice A. L., Romeo T. & Andaloro F., 2024. Deciphering the evolvement of microbial communities from hydrothermal vent sediments in a global change perspective. Environmental Research 240 (1): 117514. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.117514. Article (subscription required).

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