Posts Tagged 'prokaryotes'

Community context and pCO2 impact the transcriptome of the “helper” bacterium Alteromonas in co-culture with picocyanobacteria

Many microbial photoautotrophs depend on heterotrophic bacteria for accomplishing essential functions. Environmental changes, however, could alter or eliminate such interactions. We investigated the effects of changing pCO2 on gene transcription in co-cultures of 3 strains of picocyanobacteria (Synechococcus strains CC9311 and WH8102 and Prochlorococcus strain MIT9312) paired with the ‘helper’ bacterium Alteromonas macleodii EZ55. Co-culture with cyanobacteria resulted in a much higher number of up- and down-regulated genes in EZ55 than pCO2 by itself. Pathway analysis revealed significantly different transcription of genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, stress response, and chemotaxis, with different patterns of up- or down-regulation in co-culture with different cyanobacterial strains. Gene transcription patterns of organic and inorganic nutrient transporter and catabolism genes in EZ55 suggested resources available in the culture media were altered under elevated (800 ppm) pCO2 conditions. Altogether, changing transcription patterns were consistent with the possibility that the composition of cyanobacterial excretions changed under the two pCO2 regimes, causing extensive ecophysiological changes in both members of the co-cultures. Additionally, significant downregulation of oxidative stress genes in MIT9312/EZ55 cocultures at 800 ppm pCO2 were consistent with a link between the predicted reduced availability of photorespiratory byproducts (i.e., glycolate/2PG) under this condition and observed reductions in internal oxidative stress loads for EZ55, providing a possible explanation for the previously observed lack of “help” provided by EZ55 to MIT9312 under elevated pCO2. If similar broad alterations in microbial ecophysiology occur in the ocean as atmospheric pCO2 increases, they could lead to substantially altered ecosystem functioning and community composition.

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Phosphate limitation intensifies negative effects of ocean acidification on globally important nitrogen fixing cyanobacterium

Growth of the prominent nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Trichodesmium is often limited by phosphorus availability in the ocean. How nitrogen fixation by phosphorus-limited Trichodesmium may respond to ocean acidification remains poorly understood. Here, we use phosphate-limited chemostat experiments to show that acidification enhanced phosphorus demands and decreased phosphorus-specific nitrogen fixation rates in Trichodesmium. The increased phosphorus requirements were attributed primarily to elevated cellular polyphosphate contents, likely for maintaining cytosolic pH homeostasis in response to acidification. Alongside the accumulation of polyphosphate, decreased NADP(H):NAD(H) ratios and impaired chlorophyll synthesis and energy production were observed under acidified conditions. Consequently, the negative effects of acidification were amplified compared to those demonstrated previously under phosphorus sufficiency. Estimating the potential implications of this finding, using outputs from the Community Earth System Model, predicts that acidification and dissolved inorganic and organic phosphorus stress could synergistically cause an appreciable decrease in global Trichodesmium nitrogen fixation by 2100.

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Variable pH and subsequent change in pCO2 modulates the biofilm formation, synthesis of extracellular polymeric substances, and survivability of a marine bacterium Bacillus stercoris GST-03

Biofilm-forming bacteria adhere to the substrates and engage in the nutrient cycling process. However, environmental conditions may interrupt the biofilm formation ability, which ultimately may affect various biogeochemical cycles. The present study reports the effect of varying pH and subsequent change in pCO2 on the survivability, biofilm formation, and synthesis of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) of a biofilm-forming marine bacterium Bacillus stercoris GST-03 isolated from the Bhitarkanika mangrove ecosystem, Odisha, India. Understanding the pH-dependent alteration in EPS constituents, and associated functional groups of a marine bacterium will provide better insight into the adaptability of the bacteria in future ocean acidification scenarios. The strain was found to tolerate and form biofilm up to pH 4, with the maximum biofilm formation at pH 6. EPS yield and the synthesis of the key components of the EPS, including carbohydrate, protein, and lipid, were found maximum at pH 6. Changes in biofilm formation patterns and various topological parameters at varying pH/pCO2 conditions were observed. A cellular chaining pattern was observed at pH 4, and maximum biofilm formation was obtained at pH 6 with biomass of 5.28582 ± 0.5372 μm3/μm2 and thickness of 9.982 ± 1.5288 μm. Structural characterization of EPS showed changes in various functional groups of constituent macromolecules with varying pH. The amorphous nature of the EPS and the changes in linkages and associated functional groups (-R2CHOR, –CH3, and –CH2) with pH variation was confirmed. EPS showed a two-step degradation with a maximum weight loss of 59.147% and thermal stability up to 480 °C at pH 6. The present work efficiently demonstrates the role of EPS in providing structural and functional stability to the biofilm in varying pH conditions. The findings will provide a better understanding of the adaptability of marine bacteria in the future effect of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Variable pH and subsequent change in pCO2 modulates the biofilm formation, synthesis of extracellular polymeric substances, and survivability of a marine bacterium Bacillus stercoris GST-03′

Interactive effects of CO2, temperature, irradiance, and nutrient limitation on the growth and physiology of the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus (Cyanophyceae)

The marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus was grown in a continuous culture system to study the interactive effects of temperature, irradiance, nutrient limitation, and the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) on its growth and physiological characteristics. Cells were grown on a 14:10 h light:dark cycle at all combinations of low and high irradiance (50 and 300 μmol photons ⋅ m−2 ⋅ s−1, respectively), low and high pCO2 (400 and 1000 ppmv, respectively), nutrient limitation (nitrate-limited and nutrient-replete conditions), and temperatures of 20–45°C in 5°C increments. The maximum growth rate was ~4.5 · d−1 at 30–35°C. Under nutrient-replete conditions, growth rates at most temperatures and irradiances were about 8% slower at a pCO2 of 1000 ppmv versus 400 ppmv. The single exception was 45°C and high irradiance. Under those conditions, growth rates were ~45% higher at 1000 ppmv. Cellular carbon:nitrogen ratios were independent of temperature at a fixed relative growth rate but higher at high irradiance than at low irradiance. Initial slopes of photosynthesis–irradiance curves were higher at all temperatures under nutrient-replete versus nitrate-limited conditions; they were similar at all temperatures under high and low irradiance, except at 20°C, when they were suppressed at high irradiance. A model of phytoplankton growth in which cellular carbon was allocated to structure, storage, or the light or dark reactions of photosynthesis accounted for the general patterns of cell composition and growth rate. Allocation of carbon to the light reactions of photosynthesis was consistently higher at low versus high light and under nutrient-replete versus nitrate-limited conditions.

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Effect of rising temperature and carbon dioxide on the growth, photophysiology, and elemental ratios of marine Synechococcus: a multistressor approach

Marine picocyanobacteria belonging to the genus Synechococcus are one of the most abundant photosynthetic organisms on Earth. They are often exposed to large fluctuations in temperature and CO2 concentrations in the ocean, which are expected to further change in the coming decades due to ocean acidification and warming resulting from rising atmospheric CO2 levels. To decipher the effect of changing temperature and CO2 levels on Synechococcus, six Synechococcus strains previously isolated from various coastal and open ocean sites were exposed to a matrix of three different temperatures (22 °C, 24 °C and 26 °C) and CO2 levels (400 ppm, 600 ppm and 800 ppm). Thereafter, the specific growth rates, photophysiological parameters (σPSII and Fv/Fm), C/N (mol/mol) ratios and the nitrogen stable isotopic composition (δ15N (‰)) of the strains were measured. Temperature was found to be a stronger driver of the changes in specific growth rates and photophysiology in the Synechococcus strains. Carbon-concentrating mechanisms (CCM) operational in these strains that shield the photosynthetic machinery from directly sensing ambient changes in CO2 possibly played a major role in causing minimal changes in the specific growth rates under the varying CO2 levels.

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Physical and biological controls on anthropogenic CO2 sink of the Ross Sea

The Antarctic continental shelf is known as a critical anthropogenic CO2 (Cant) sink due to its cold waters, high primary productivity, and unique circulation, which allow it to sequester large amounts of organic and inorganic carbon into the deep ocean. However, climate change is currently causing significant alteration to the Antarctic marine carbon cycle, with unknown consequences on the Cant uptake capacity, making model-based estimates of future ocean acidification of polar regions highly uncertain. Here, we investigated the marine carbonate system in the Ross Sea in order to assess the current anthropogenic carbon content and how physical–biological processes can control the Cant sequestration along the shelf-slope continuum. The Winter Water mass generated from convective events was characterized by high Cant level (28 µmol kg−1) as a consequence of the mixed layer break-up during the cold season, whereas old and less-ventilated Circumpolar Deep Water entering the Ross Sea revealed a very scarce contribution of anthropogenic carbon (7 µmol kg−1). The Cant concentration was also different between polynya areas and the shelf break, as a result of their specific hydrographic characteristics and biological processes: surface waters of the Ross Sea and Terra Nova Bay polynyas served as strong CO2 sink (up to −185 mmol m−2), due to the remarkable net community production, estimated from the summertime surface-dissolved inorganic carbon deficit. However, a large amount of the generated particulate organic carbon was promptly consumed by intense microbial activity, giving back carbon dioxide into the intermediate and deep layers of the continental shelf zone. Further Cant also derived from High-Salinity Shelf Water produced during winter sea ice formation (25 µmol kg−1), fueling dense shelf waters with additional input of Cant, which was finally stored into the abyssal sink through continental slope outflow (19 µmol kg−1). Our results suggest that summer biological activity over the Ross Sea shelf is pivotal for the shunt of anthropogenic CO2 between the organic and inorganic carbon pools, enhancing the ocean acidification of the upper mesopelagic zone and the long-term Cant sequestration into the deep ocean.

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Perceived intensification in harmful algal blooms is a wave of cumulative threat to the aquatic ecosystems

Aquatic pollution is considered a major threat to sustainable development across the world, and deterioration of aquatic ecosystems is caused usually by harmful algal blooms (HABs). In recent times, HABs have gained attention from scientists to better understand these phenomena given that these blooms are increasing in intensity and distribution with considerable impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Many exogenous factors such as variations in climatic patterns, eutrophication, wind blowing, dust storms, and upwelling of water currents form these blooms. Globally, the HAB formation is increasing the toxicity in the natural water sources, ultimately leading the deleterious and hazardous effects on the aquatic fauna and flora. This review summarizes the types of HABs with their potential effects, toxicity, grazing defense, human health impacts, management, and control of these harmful entities. This review offers a systematic approach towards the understanding of HABs, eliciting to rethink the increasing threat caused by HABs in aquatic ecosystems across the world. Therefore, to mitigate this increasing threat to aquatic environments, advanced scientific research in ecology and environmental sciences should be prioritized.

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The influence of climate change on marine bacterioplankton communities and greenhouse gases in New Zealand waters

Bacterioplankton communities play a fundamental role in the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the oceans. Cycling of these nutrients by bacterioplankton also contributes to the production of nitrous oxide and methane, resulting in the oceans being a net source of both these greenhouse gases. Climate change is impacting the oceans through warming and acidification resulting in alteration of planktonic ecosystems, via changes in productivity, biomass, and species composition. The response of marine bacterioplankton communities to the direct effects of ocean warming and lowered pH, and to the indirect effects of changes in phytoplankton and zooplankton, has implications for biogeochemical cycling and therefore the production of nitrous oxide and methane. This thesis investigates the impact of both direct and indirect climate pressures by determining the influence of ocean warming and lowered pH on bacterioplankton and the production of methane and nitrous oxide in New Zealand coastal waters. It also assesses how open ocean bacterioplankton communities and dissolved methane and nitrous oxide are influenced by water mass properties and, in particular, how they may be affected by climate-induced changes in the distribution and abundance of salps, a dominant group of zooplankton.

To determine the impact of lower pH and warming on bacterioplankton community, production and abundance, coastal water was manipulated in three mesocosm experiments to projected future ocean temperature and pH. The experiments ran for 18-21 days using 4000-Litre mesocosms filled with coastal water and associated plankton communities, with pH and temperature continuously regulated. High-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene was used to determine bacterioplankton community composition and leucine incorporation was used to measure bacterial production during the experiments. Minor but significant increases in alpha diversity were seen under low pH and warming. However, overall results from the mesocosm experiments indicate resilience to ocean warming and low pH in coastal bacterioplankton communities, with no significant impacts on production, abundance or beta-diversity found. Bacterioplankton communities in coastal sites are likely to experience high natural variability, which may result in lack of sensitivity to projected climate change.

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Phototrophic sponge productivity may not be enhanced in a high CO2 world

Sponges are major components of benthic communities across the world and have been identified as potential “winners” on coral reefs in the face of global climate change as result of their tolerance to ocean warming and acidification (OA). Previous studies have also hypothesised that photosymbiont-containing sponges might have higher productivity under future OA conditions as a result of photosymbionts having increased access to CO2 and subsequently greater carbon production. Here we test this hypothesis for a widespread and abundant photosymbiont-containing sponge species Lamellodysidea herbacea at a CO2 seep in Papua New Guinea simulating OA conditions. We found seep sponges had relatively higher cyanobacterial abundance, chlorophyll concentrations and symbiont photosynthetic efficiency than non-seep sponges, and a three-fold higher sponge abundance at the seep site. However, while gross oxygen production was the same for seep and non-seep sponges, seep sponge dark respiration rates were higher and instantaneous photosynthesis: respiration (P:R) ratios were lower. We show that while photosymbiont containing sponges may not have increased productivity under OA, they are able to show flexibility in their relationships with microbes and offset increased metabolic costs associated with climate change associated stress.

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Synergistic promoting effect of increasing aquatic ammonium and CO2 on Microcystis aeruginosa


  • NO3--grown M. aeruginosa more prone to accumulate C-rich products.
  • As CO2 increased, shift from NO3- to NH4+ led to greater increases in Chl a.
  • Elevated CO2 reduced ROS of NH4+ -grown M. aeruginosa under suitable light.
  • Under strong light, elevated CO2 greatly increased ROS in NO3--grown M. aeruginosa.
  • Under strong light, only NH4+-grown M. aeruginosa showed improved growth as CO2 rose.


Owing to climate change and intensive agricultural development, freshwater bodies have been affected by increases in both CO2 levels and chemically-reduced forms of N. However, little is known about how these changes affect cyanobacterial growth and blooms. This study explored a range of light conditions (30, 80, 130, or 200 μmol photons/m2/s) wherein Microcystis aeruginosa, a widespread bloom-forming species, was exposed to different concentrations of CO2 (400 parts per million (ppm) and 1000 ppm) in a medium containing NH4+ or NO3-. The interactive effects of N sources and CO2 levels on the C/N metabolic balance and energy balance were examined to assess changes in the growth of M. aeruginosa. When the light intensity was 80 μmol photons/m2/s, elevated CO2 could reduce intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) in NH4+-grown M. aeruginosa. Meanwhile, cell density and chlorophyll a (Chl a) increased with increasing CO2 levels, and the increase in Chl a was significantly greater in NH4+-grown M. aeruginosa than in NO3--grown M. aeruginosa. Under light conditions of 200 μmol photons/m2/s, elevated CO2 concentration caused NO3--grown M. aeruginosa to be affected by a large amount of ROS, and the growth of NO3--grown M. aeruginosa was finally suppressed. However, NH4+-grown M. aeruginosa had a smaller amount of ROS and showed improved growth as CO2 was elevated. This difference can be attributed to the faster metabolic pathways in the NH4+ environment, which manifested in a lower accumulation of 2-oxoglutarate and fatty acids as CO2 was elevated. These findings suggest that the simultaneous increase in ammonium and CO2 in aquatic ecosystems confers cyanobacteria with greater advantages than the combination of nitrate and CO2, which may aggravate cyanobacterial blooms.

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Differential responses of dominant and rare epiphytic bacteria from a submerged macrophyte to elevated CO2

Epiphytic bacteria develop complex interactions with their host macrophytes and play an important role in the ecological processes in freshwater habitats. However, how dominant and rare taxa respond to elevated atmospheric CO2 remains unclear. A manipulated experiment was carried out to explore the effects of elevated CO2 on the diversity or functional characteristics of leaf epiphytic dominant and rare bacteria from a submerged macrophyte. Three levels (high, medium, normal) of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) were applied to the overlying water. The physicochemical properties of the overlying water were measured. Elevated atmospheric CO2 significantly decreased the pH and dissolved oxygen (DO) of overlying water. Proteobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Planctomycetes, and Actinobacteria are the dominant phyla of leaf epiphytic bacteria from Myriophyllum spicatum, occupying over 90% of the accumulated relative abundances. The aquatic DIC level and further pH significantly drove the epiphytic community composition differences among the three DIC levels. For dominant epiphytic bacteria, the functional potential of nutrient processes and mutualistic relationships were strongly affected by a high DIC level, while responses of rare epiphytic bacteria were more related to trace element processes, pathogens, and defense strategies under a high DIC level. Our results showed the responses of epiphytic bacteria to elevated CO2 varied across dominant and rare taxa.

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Global climate change and the Baltic Sea ecosystem: direct and indirect effects on species, communities and ecosystem functioning

Climate change has multiple effects on Baltic Sea species, communities and ecosystem functioning through changes in physical and biogeochemical environmental characteristics of the sea. Associated indirect and secondary effects on species interactions, trophic dynamics and ecosystem function are expected to be significant. We review studies investigating species-, population- and ecosystem-level effects of abiotic factors that may change due to global climate change, such as temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, nutrient levels, and the more indirect biogeochemical and food web processes, primarily based on peer-reviewed literature published since 2010.

For phytoplankton, clear symptoms of climate change, such as prolongation of the growing season, are evident and can be explained by the warming, but otherwise climate effects vary from species to species and area to area. Several modelling studies project a decrease of phytoplankton bloom in spring and an increase in cyanobacteria blooms in summer. The associated increase in N:P ratio may contribute to maintaining the “vicious circle of eutrophication”. However, uncertainties remain because some field studies claim that cyanobacteria have not increased and some experimental studies show that responses of cyanobacteria to temperature, salinity and pH vary from species to species. An increase of riverine dissolved organic matter (DOM) may also decrease primary production, but the relative importance of this process in different sea areas is not well known. Bacteria growth is favoured by increasing temperature and DOM, but complex effects in the microbial food web are probable. Warming of seawater in spring also speeds up zooplankton growth and shortens the time lag between phytoplankton and zooplankton peaks, which may lead to decreasing of phytoplankton in spring. In summer, a shift towards smaller-sized zooplankton and a decline of marine copepod species has been projected.

In deep benthic communities, continued eutrophication promotes high sedimentation and maintains good food conditions for zoobenthos. If nutrient abatement proceeds, improving oxygen conditions will first increase zoobenthos biomass, but the subsequent decrease of sedimenting matter will disrupt the pelagic–benthic coupling and lead to a decreased zoobenthos biomass. In the shallower photic systems, heatwaves may produce eutrophication-like effects, e.g. overgrowth of bladderwrack by epiphytes, due to a trophic cascade. If salinity also declines, marine species such as bladderwrack, eelgrass and blue mussel may decline. Freshwater vascular plants will be favoured but they cannot replace macroalgae on rocky substrates. Consequently invertebrates and fish benefiting from macroalgal belts may also suffer. Climate-induced changes in the environment also favour establishment of non-indigenous species, potentially affecting food web dynamics in the Baltic Sea.

As for fish, salinity decline and continuing of hypoxia is projected to keep cod stocks low, whereas the increasing temperature has been projected to favour sprat and certain coastal fish. Regime shifts and cascading effects have been observed in both pelagic and benthic systems as a result of several climatic and environmental effects acting synergistically.

Knowledge gaps include uncertainties in projecting the future salinity level, as well as stratification and potential rate of internal loading, under different climate forcings. This weakens our ability to project how pelagic productivity, fish populations and macroalgal communities may change in the future. The 3D ecosystem models, food web models and 2D species distribution models would benefit from integration, but progress is slowed down by scale problems and inability of models to consider the complex interactions between species. Experimental work should be better integrated into empirical and modelling studies of food web dynamics to get a more comprehensive view of the responses of the pelagic and benthic systems to climate change, from bacteria to fish. In addition, to better understand the effects of climate change on the biodiversity of the Baltic Sea, more emphasis should be placed on studies of shallow photic environments.

The fate of the Baltic Sea ecosystem will depend on various intertwined environmental factors and on development of the society. Climate change will probably delay the effects of nutrient abatement and tend to keep the ecosystem in its “novel” state. However, several modelling studies conclude that nutrient reductions will be a stronger driver for ecosystem functioning of the Baltic Sea than climate change. Such studies highlight the importance of studying the Baltic Sea as an interlinked socio-ecological system.

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Transformations of diatom-derived dissolved organic matter by Bacillus pumilus under warming and acidification conditions

Heterotrophic bacteria are assumed to play an important role in processing of phytoplankton-derived dissolved organic matter (DOM). Although the algae-derived organic matter is commonly studied, the transformation and processing of DOM by epiphytic bacteria for phytoplankton have rarely been investigated, especially under warming and acidification. In this study, Bacillus pumilus is used to explore the ecologically important marine diatom Skeletonema dohrnii-derived DOM under different conditions (temperature, 27°C and 31°C; pCO2, 400 and 1,000 ppm), utilizing fluorescence excitation-emission matrix (EEM) combined with parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC). Fluorescence regional integration and the peak selecting method are used to generate B, T, N, A, M, and C peaks in the EEM fluorescence spectroscopy. The main known fluorophores including that protein-like components (peaks B and T), unknown components (peak N), and humic-like component (peaks A, M, and C). Our experimental results showed that under higher temperature and pressure of CO2 (pCO2) conditions, S. dohrnii-derived DOM fluorescence was dominated by a protein-like signal that slower waning throughout the experiment, becoming an increasingly humic-like substance, implying that processing by the epiphytic bacteria (B. pumilus) produced more complex molecules. In addition, spectroscopic indices (e.g., fluorescence index, biological index, freshness index β/α, and humification index) were changed in varying degrees. This study reveals and confirms the direct participation of heterotrophic bacteria in the transformation and generation of algae-derived DOM in the laboratory, underlining the influence of global warming and ocean acidification on this process.

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Microbial biofilms along a geochemical gradient at the shallow-water hydrothermal system of Vulcano Island, Mediterranean Sea

Shallow water hydrothermal vents represent highly dynamic environments where strong geochemical gradients can shape microbial communities. Recently, these systems are being widely used for investigating the effects of ocean acidification on biota as vent emissions can release high CO2 concentrations causing local pH reduction. However, other gas species, as well as trace elements and metals, are often released in association with CO2 and can potentially act as confounding factors. In this study, we evaluated the composition, diversity and inferred functional profiles of microbial biofilms in Levante Bay (Vulcano Island, Italy, Mediterranean Sea), a well-studied shallow-water hydrothermal vent system. We analyzed 16S rRNA transcripts from biofilms exposed to different intensity of hydrothermal activity, following a redox and pH gradient across the bay. We found that elevated CO2 concentrations causing low pH can affect the response of bacterial groups and taxa by either increasing or decreasing their relative abundance. H2S proved to be a highly selective factor shaping the composition and affecting the diversity of the community by selecting for sulfide-dependent, chemolithoautotrophic bacteria. The analysis of the 16S rRNA transcripts, along with the inferred functional profile of the communities, revealed a strong influence of H2S in the southern portion of the study area, and temporal succession affected the inferred abundance of genes for key metabolic pathways. Our results revealed that the composition of the microbial assemblages vary at very small spatial scales, mirroring the highly variable geochemical signature of vent emissions and cautioning for the use of these environments as models to investigate the effects of ocean acidification on microbial diversity.

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Modelling antifouling compounds of macroalgal holobionts in current and future pH conditions

Marine macroalgae are important ecosystem engineers in marine coastal habitats. Macroalgae can be negatively impacted through excessive colonization by harmful bacteria, fungi, microalgae, and macro-colonisers and thus employ a range of chemical compounds to minimize such colonization. Recent research suggests that environmental pH conditions potentially impact the functionality of such chemical compounds. Here we predict if and how naturally fluctuating pH conditions and future conditions caused by ocean acidification will affect macroalgal (antifouling) compounds and thereby potentially alter the chemical defence mediated by these compounds. We defined the relevant ecological pH range, analysed and scored the pH-sensitivity of compounds with antifouling functions based on their modelled chemical properties before assessing their distribution across the phylogenetic macroalgal groups, and the proportion of sensitive compounds for each investigated function. For some key compounds, we also predicted in detail how the associated ecological function may develop across the pH range. The majority of compounds were unaffected by pH, but compounds containing phenolic and amine groups were found to be particularly sensitive to pH. Future pH changes due to predicted average open ocean acidification pH were found to have little effect. Compounds from Rhodophyta were mainly pH-stable. However, key algal species amongst Phaeophyceae and Chlorophyta were found to rely on highly pH-sensitive compounds for their chemical defence against harmful bacteria, microalgae, fungi, and biofouling by macro-organisms. All quorum sensing disruptive compounds were found the be unaffected by pH, but the other ecological functions were all conveyed in part by pH-sensitive compounds. For some ecological keystone species, all of their compounds mediating defence functions were found to be pH-sensitive based on our calculations, which may not only affect the health and fitness of the host alga resulting in host breakdown but also alter the associated ecological interactions of the macroalgal holobiont with micro and macrocolonisers, eventually causing ecosystem restructuring and the functions (e.g. habitat provision) provided by macroalgal hosts. Our study investigates a question of fundamental importance because environments with fluctuating or changing pH are common and apply not only to coastal marine habitats and estuaries but also to freshwater environments or terrestrial systems that are subject to acid rain. Hence, whilst warranting experimental validation, this investigation with macroalgae as model organisms can serve as a basis for future investigations in other aquatic or even terrestrial systems.

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Can heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) serve as biomarkers in Antarctica for future ocean acidification, warming and salinity stress?

The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth. Elevated sea water temperatures cause glacier and sea ice melting. When icebergs melt into the ocean, it “freshens” the saltwater around them, reducing its salinity. The oceans absorb excess anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) causing decline in ocean pH, a process known as ocean acidification. Many marine organisms are specifically affected by ocean warming, freshening and acidification. Due to the sensitivity of Antarctica to global warming, using biomarkers is the best way for scientists to predict more accurately future climate change and provide useful information or ecological risk assessments. The 70-kilodalton (kDa) heat shock protein (HSP70) chaperones have been used as biomarkers of stress in temperate and tropical environments. The induction of the HSP70 genes (Hsp70) that alter intracellular proteins in living organisms is a signal triggered by environmental temperature changes. Induction of Hsp70 has been observed both in eukaryotes and in prokaryotes as response to environmental stressors including increased and decreased temperature, salinity, pH and the combined effects of changes in temperature, acidification and salinity stress. Generally, HSP70s play critical roles in numerous complex processes of metabolism; their synthesis can usually be increased or decreased during stressful conditions. However, there is a question as to whether HSP70s may serve as excellent biomarkers in the Antarctic considering the long residence time of Antarctic organisms in a cold polar environment which appears to have greatly modified the response of heat responding transcriptional systems. This review provides insight into the vital roles of HSP70 that make them ideal candidates as biomarkers for identifying resistance and resilience in response to abiotic stressors associated with climate change, which are the effects of ocean warming, freshening and acidification in Antarctic organisms.

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Proteome and microbiota analyses characterizing dynamic coral-algae-microbe tripartite interactions under simulated rapid ocean acidification


  • pH changes had a significant effect on the coral proteome- and 16S-profiling.
  • Maintenance of coral-algae-microbe interactions is a mechanism in coping with OA.
  • Proteome analysis identified some core biological pathways in OA early responses.
  • OA influences the microbial community, potentially compromising holobiont fitness.


Ocean acidification (OA) is a pressing issue currently and in the future for coral reefs. The importance of maintenance interactions among partners of the holobiont association in the stress response is well appreciated; however, the candidate molecular and microbial mechanisms that underlie holobiont stress resilience or susceptibility remain unclear. Here, to assess the effects of rapid pH change on coral holobionts at both the protein and microbe levels, combined proteomics and microbiota analyses of the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascicularis exposed to three relevant OA scenarios, including current (pHT = 8.15), preindustrial (pHT = 8.45) and future IPCC-2100 scenarios (pHT = 7.85), were conducted. The results demonstrated that pH changes had no significant effect on the physiological calcification rate of G. fascicularis in a 10-day experiment; however, significant differences were recorded in the proteome and 16S profiling. Proteome variance analysis identified some of the core biological pathways in coral holobionts, including coral host infection and immune defence, and maintaining metabolic compatibility involved in energy homeostasis, nutrient cycling, antibiotic activity and carbon budgets of coral-Symbiodiniaceae interactions were key mechanisms in the early OA stress response. Furthermore, microbiota changes indicate substantial microbial community and functional disturbances in response to OA stress, potentially compromising holobiont health and fitness. Our results may help to elucidate many complex mechanisms to describe scleractinian coral holobiont responses to OA and raise interesting questions for future studies.

Continue reading ‘Proteome and microbiota analyses characterizing dynamic coral-algae-microbe tripartite interactions under simulated rapid ocean acidification’

Carbonate chemistry in the microenvironment within cyanobacterial aggregates under present-day and future pCO2 levels

Photosynthesis and respiration cause distinct chemical microenvironments within cyanobacterial aggregates. Here, we used microsensors and a diffusion–reaction model to characterize gradients in carbonate chemistry and investigate how these are affected by ocean acidification in Baltic vs. Pacific aggregates (Nodularia and Dolichospermum vs. Trichodesmium). Microsensor measurements of O2 and pH were performed under in situ and expected future pCO2 levels on Nodularia and Dolichospermum aggregates collected in the Baltic Sea. Under in situ conditions, O2 and pH levels within the aggregates covered ranges of 80–175% air saturation and 7.7–9.4 in dark and light, respectively. Carbon uptake in the light was predicted to reduce HCO3 by 100–150 μmol L−1 and CO2 by 3–6 μmol L−1 in the aggregate center compared to outside, inducing strong CO2 depletion (down to 0.5 μmol L−1 CO2 remaining in the center) even when assuming that HCO3 covered 80–90% of carbon uptake. Under ocean acidification conditions, enhanced CO2 availability allowed for significantly lower activity of carbon concentrating mechanisms, including a reduction of the contribution of HCO3 to carbon uptake by up to a factor of 10. The magnification of proton gradients under elevated pCO2 that was predicted based on a lower buffer capacity was observed in measurements despite a concurrent decrease in photosynthetic activity. In summary, we provide a quantitative image of the inorganic carbon environment in cyanobacterial aggregates under present-day and expected future conditions, considering both the individual and combined effects of the chemical and biological processes that shape these environments.

Continue reading ‘Carbonate chemistry in the microenvironment within cyanobacterial aggregates under present-day and future pCO2 levels’

Response of microbial communities on culturing plates of post-settlement sea cucumbers to seawater acidification and warming

Seawater acidification and warming have been found to affect the early life of many marine organisms, but their effects on the microbial community in the environment related to the early development stage of aquaculture species have been rarely investigated. To understand how seawater acidification and warming impact the microbial community in aquaculture systems, we designed four microcosms to monitor and characterize the microbial composition on the corrugated plates in the Apostichopus japonicus culture tanks during its post-settlement stage. High-throughput 16S rRNA sequencing revealed that the bacterial community composition varied significantly in different periods of incubation. The bacterial diversity and community composition were obviously changed by seawater acidification and warming in the early period and then tended to revert to the level of the control group. Acidification significantly increased the relative abundance of dominant families Rhodobacteraceae and Flavobacteriaceae in the early period, suggesting that microbiota could increase the abundance of predominant taxa to adapt to increased CO2 concentration and reconstruct a stable community structure. No interaction effect of both factors was observed in the combined group. Results reveal that the microbial communities on the corrugated plates in A. japonicus culture tank were affected in the early period of incubation, and could then acclimatize to the increased CO2 and temperature. This study provides new insights into the variation and adaptation responses of the microbiota in aquaculture systems to seawater acidification and warming.

Continue reading ‘Response of microbial communities on culturing plates of post-settlement sea cucumbers to seawater acidification and warming’

Effects of ocean acidification on resident and active microbial communities of Stylophora pistillata

Ocean warming and ocean acidification (OA) are direct consequences of climate change and affect coral reefs worldwide. While the effect of ocean warming manifests itself in increased frequency and severity of coral bleaching, the effects of ocean acidification on corals are less clear. In particular, long-term effects of OA on the bacterial communities associated with corals are largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the effects of ocean acidification on the resident and active microbiome of long-term aquaria-maintained Stylophora pistillata colonies by assessing 16S rRNA gene diversity on the DNA (resident community) and RNA level (active community). Coral colony fragments of S. pistillata were kept in aquaria for 2 years at four different pCO2 levels ranging from current pH conditions to increased acidification scenarios (i.e., pH 7.2, 7.4, 7.8, and 8). We identified 154 bacterial families encompassing 2,047 taxa (OTUs) in the resident and 89 bacterial families including 1,659 OTUs in the active communities. Resident communities were dominated by members of Alteromonadaceae, Flavobacteriaceae, and Colwelliaceae, while active communities were dominated by families Cyclobacteriacea and Amoebophilaceae. Besides the overall differences between resident and active community composition, significant differences were seen between the control (pH 8) and the two lower pH treatments (7.2 and 7.4) in the active community, but only between pH 8 and 7.2 in the resident community. Our analyses revealed profound differences between the resident and active microbial communities, and we found that OA exerted stronger effects on the active community. Further, our results suggest that rDNA- and rRNA-based sequencing should be considered complementary tools to investigate the effects of environmental change on microbial assemblage structure and activity.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on resident and active microbial communities of Stylophora pistillata’

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