Bacterioplankton assemblages in coastal ponds reflect the influence of hydrology and geomorphological setting

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The factors that shape microbial community assembly in aquatic ecosystems have been widely studied; yet it is still unclear how distinct communities within a connected landscape influence one another. Coastal lakes are recipients of, and thus are connected to, both marine and terrestrial environments. Thus, they may host microbial assemblages that reflect the relative degree of influence by, and connectivity to, either system. In order to address this idea, we interrogated microbial community diversity at 49 sites in seven ponds in two seasons in the Lake MacLeod basin, a system fed by seawater flowing inland through underground karst. Environmental and spatial variation within ponds explain <9% of the community structure, while identity of the pond that samples were taken from explains 50% of community variation. That is, ponds each host distinct assemblages despite similarities in size, environment and position in the landscape, indicating a dominant role for local species sorting. The ponds contain a substantial amount of previously unknown microbial taxa, reflecting the unusual nature of this inland system. Rare marine taxa, possibly dispersed from seawater assemblages via the underground karst connection, are abundant within the inland system, suggesting an important role for regional dispersal within the metacommunities.

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