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ISME J. 2015 Mar;9(3):563-80. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.153. Epub 2014 Sep 9.

Seasonal and interannual variability of the marine bacterioplankton community throughout the water column over ten years.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Microbial activities that affect global oceanographic and atmospheric processes happen throughout the water column, yet the long-term ecological dynamics of microbes have been studied largely in the euphotic zone and adjacent seasonally mixed depths. We investigated temporal patterns in the community structure of free-living bacteria, by sampling approximately monthly from 5 m, the deep chlorophyll maximum (∼15-40 m), 150, 500 and 890 m, in San Pedro Channel (maximum depth 900 m, hypoxic below ∼500 m), off the coast of Southern California. Community structure and biodiversity (inverse Simpson index) showed seasonal patterns near the surface and bottom of the water column, but not at intermediate depths. Inverse Simpson's index was highest in the winter in surface waters and in the spring at 890 m, and varied interannually at all depths. Biodiversity appeared to be driven partially by exchange of microbes between depths and was highest when communities were changing slowly over time. Meanwhile, communities from the surface through 500 m varied interannually. After accounting for seasonality, several environmental parameters co-varied with community structure at the surface and 890 m, but not at the intermediate depths. Abundant and seasonally variable groups included, at 890 m, Nitrospina, Flavobacteria and Marine Group A. Seasonality at 890 m is likely driven by variability in sinking particles, which originate in surface waters, pass transiently through the middle water column and accumulate on the seafloor where they alter the chemical environment. Seasonal subeuphotic groups are likely those whose ecology is strongly influenced by these particles. This surface-to-bottom, decade-long, study identifies seasonality and interannual variability not only of overall community structure, but also of numerous taxonomic groups and near-species level operational taxonomic units.

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