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ISME J. 2009 Sep;3(9):1082-92. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2009.50. Epub 2009 May 7.

Plankton composition and environmental factors contribute to Vibrio seasonality.

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Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA.


Plankton represent a nutrient-rich reservoir capable of enriching Vibrio species, which can include human pathogens, at higher densities than the surrounding water column. To better understand the relationship between vibrios and plankton, the partitioning of culturable vibrios, on TCBS, between free living and plankton associated (63-200- and >200-microm-size fractions) was monitored over a 1-year period in coastal waters of Georgia, USA. Seasonal changes in the total Vibrio concentration were then compared with changes in environmental parameters as well as changes in the relative composition of the plankton community. Using univariate analyses, Vibrio concentrations were strongly associated with temperature, especially when those vibrios were plankton associated (R(2)=0.69 and 0.88 for the water and both plankton fractions; respectively) (P<0.01). Multivariate general linear models revealed that Vibrio concentrations in the plankton fractions were also correlated to shifts in the relative abundance of specific plankton taxa. In the 63-200-micro fraction, Vibrio concentrations were inversely associated with copepods, cyanobacteria and diatoms. In the >200-micro fraction, Vibrio concentrations were positively associated with copepods and negatively associated with decapod larvae. Our results confirm the role of temperature in Vibrio seasonality and highlight an important and independent role for plankton composition in explaining seasonal changes in Vibrio concentration.

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