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Environ Microbiol. 2018 Aug;20(8):2854-2864. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.14245. Epub 2018 May 21.

Seagrass rhizosphere microenvironment alters plant-associated microbial community composition.

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Climate Change Cluster, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Marine Biological Section, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Helsingør, Denmark.


The seagrass rhizosphere harbors dynamic microenvironments, where plant-driven gradients of O2 and dissolved organic carbon form microhabitats that select for distinct microbial communities. To examine how seagrass-mediated alterations of rhizosphere geochemistry affect microbial communities at the microscale level, we applied 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of artificial sediments surrounding the meristematic tissues of the seagrass Zostera muelleri together with microsensor measurements of the chemical conditions at the basal leaf meristem (BLM). Radial O2 loss (ROL) from the BLM led to ∼ 300 µm thick oxic microzones, wherein pronounced decreases in H2 S and pH occurred. Significantly higher relative abundances of sulphate-reducing bacteria were observed around the meristematic tissues compared to the bulk sediment, especially around the root apical meristems (RAM; ∼ 57% of sequences). Within oxic microniches, elevated abundances of sulphide-oxidizing bacteria were observed compared to the bulk sediment and around the RAM. However, sulphide oxidisers within the oxic microzone did not enhance sediment detoxification, as rates of H2 S re-oxidation here were similar to those observed in a pre-sterilized root/rhizome environment. Our results provide novel insights into how chemical and microbiological processes in the seagrass rhizosphere modulate plant-microbe interactions potentially affecting seagrass health.


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