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Syst Appl Microbiol. 2011 Apr;34(2):116-26. doi: 10.1016/j.syapm.2011.01.003. Epub 2011 Feb 22.

Microbial diversity in marine biofilms along a water quality gradient on the Great Barrier Reef.

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  • 1Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB No 3, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia.


Microbial communities are potential indicators for water quality as they respond rapidly to environmental changes. In the Whitsunday Islands, Australia, microbial biofilm communities from two offshore islands were compared to those from two inshore islands subjected to poor water quality. Biofilm community composition was characterized using three culture-independent molecular techniques. The clone libraries indicated high genetic diversity, with somewhat higher scores in the offshore sites (57%) compared to the inshore sites (41%). The majority of microbes in the biofilms were related to Alphaproteobacteria (39.8%), Gammaproteobacteria (14.1%), Bacteroidetes (13.2%), diatoms (8.3%) and Cyanobacteria (3.9%). Redundancy analysis (RDA) for the CARD-FISH data showed distinct microbial assemblages between offshore and inshore communities. Additionally, 5 out of 13 water quality parameters (DIN, Chla, POP, TSS and POC) explained a significant amount of variation in the microbial communities and high values of these were associated with inshore communities. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that Cyanobacteria (p=0.01), Bacteroidetes (p=0.04) and to some extent Alphaproteobacteria (p=0.07), were significantly more abundant in the offshore biofilm communities. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of DGGE data showed clear grouping of cyanobacterial communities into inshore and offshore communities. Reasons for community shifts in the bacterial lineages are currently not resolved. One possible causative factor may be that autotrophic primary producers are more dominant in offshore sites due to the higher light availability as well as the limitation by DIN. The trends found in this study are the bases for more detailed research on microbial indicator species for changes in water quality.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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