Major changes in the composition of a Southern Ocean bacterial community in response to diatom-derived dissolved organic matter

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In the Southern Ocean, natural iron fertilization in the wake of islands leads to annually occurring spring phytoplankton blooms associated with enhanced heterotrophic activity through the release of labile dissolved organic matter (DOM). The aim of this study was to investigate experimentally how diatom-derived DOM affects the composition of Southern Ocean winter water bacterial communities and to identify the most responsive taxa. A bacterial community collected in the naturally iron-fertilized region off Kerguelen Island (KEOPS2 October-November 2011) was grown onboard in continuous cultures, on winter water alone or amended with diatom-derived DOM supplied at identical DOC concentrations. 454 sequencing of 16S amplicons revealed that the two DOM sources sustained strikingly different bacterial communities, with higher relative abundances of Sulfitobacter, Colwellia and Methylophaga operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and lower relative abundances of Polaribacter, Marinobacter, NAC11-7 and SAR11 OTUs in diatom-DOM compared to winter water conditions. Using a modeling approach, we obtained growth rates for phylogenetically diverse taxa varying between 0.12 and 0.49 d−1 under carbon-limited conditions. Our results identify diatom DOM as a key factor shaping Southern Ocean winter water bacterial communities and suggest a role for niche partitioning and microbial interactions in organic matter utilization.

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