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Microb Ecol. 2005 Jan;49(1):163-75. Epub 2005 Jan 28.

Links between phytoplankton and bacterial community dynamics in a coastal marine environment.

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Center for Complex Environmental Systems, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854, USA.


Bacteria and phytoplankton dynamics are thought to be closely linked in coastal marine environments, with correlations frequently observed between bacterial and phytoplankton biomass. In contrast, little is known about how these communities interact with each other at the species composition level. The purpose of the current study was to analyze bacterial community dynamics in a productive, coastal ecosystem and to determine whether they were related to phytoplankton community dynamics. Near-surface seawater samples were collected in February, May, July, and September 2000 from several stations in the Bay of Fundy. Savin et al. (M.C. Savin et al., Microb Ecol 48: 51-65) analyzed the phytoplankton community in simultaneously collected samples. The attached and free-living bacterial communities were collected by successive filtration onto 5 microm and 0.22 microm pore-size filters, respectively. DNA was extracted from filters and bacterial 16S rRNA gene fragments were amplified and analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). DGGE revealed that diversity and temporal variability were lower in the free-living than the attached bacterial community. Both attached and free-living communities were dominated by members of the Roseobacter and Cytophaga groups. Correspondence analysis (CA) ordination diagrams showed similar patterns for the phytoplankton and attached bacterial communities, indicating that shifts in the species composition of these communities were linked. Similarly, canonical CA revealed that the diversity, abundance, and percentage of diatoms in the phytoplankton community accounted for a significant amount of the variability in the attached bacterial community composition. In contrast, ordination analyses did not reveal an association between free-living bacteria and phytoplankton. These results suggest that there are specific interactions between phytoplankton and the bacteria attached to them, and that these interactions influence the composition of both communities.

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