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ISME J. 2012 Apr;6(4):724-32. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.140. Epub 2011 Nov 10.

The energy-diversity relationship of complex bacterial communities in Arctic deep-sea sediments.

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HGF-MPG Group for Deep Sea Ecology and Technology, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany.


The availability of nutrients and energy is a main driver of biodiversity for plant and animal communities in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, but we are only beginning to understand whether and how energy-diversity relationships may be extended to complex natural bacterial communities. Here, we analyzed the link between phytodetritus input, diversity and activity of bacterial communities of the Siberian continental margin (37-3427 m water depth). Community structure and functions, such as enzymatic activity, oxygen consumption and carbon remineralization rates, were highly related to each other, and with energy availability. Bacterial richness substantially increased with increasing sediment pigment content, suggesting a positive energy-diversity relationship in oligotrophic regions. Richness leveled off, forming a plateau, when mesotrophic sites were included, suggesting that bacterial communities and other benthic fauna may be structured by similar mechanisms. Dominant bacterial taxa showed strong positive or negative relationships with phytodetritus input and allowed us to identify candidate bioindicator taxa. Contrasting responses of individual taxa to changes in phytodetritus input also suggest varying ecological strategies among bacterial groups along the energy gradient. Our results imply that environmental changes affecting primary productivity and particle export from the surface ocean will not only affect bacterial community structure but also bacterial functions in Arctic deep-sea sediment, and that sediment bacterial communities can record shifts in the whole ocean ecosystem functioning.

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