Depth and location influence prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbial community structure in New Zealand fjords

Sven P Tobias-Hünefeldt, Stephen R Wing, Nadjejda Espinel-Velasco, Federico Baltar, Sergio E Morales

Systems with strong horizontal and vertical gradients, such as fjords, are useful models for studying environmental forcing. Here we examine microbial (prokaryotic and eukaryotic) community changes associated with the surface low salinity layer (LSL) and underlying seawater in multiple fjords in Fiordland National Park (New Zealand). High rainfall (1200-8000 mm annually) and linked runoff from native forested catchments results in surface LSLs with high tannin concentrations within each fjord. These gradients are expected to drive changes in microbial communities. We used amplicon sequencing (16S and 18S) to assess the impact of these gradients on microbial communities and identified depth linked changes in diversity and community structure. With increasing depth, we observed significant increases in Proteobacteria (15%) and SAR (37%), decreases in Opisthokonta (35%), and transiently increased Bacteroidetes (3% increase from 0 to 40 m, decreasing by 8% at 200 m). Community structure differences were observed along a transect from the head to the mouth, specifically 25% mean relative abundance decreases in Opisthokonta and Bacteroidetes, and increases in SAR (25%) and Proteobacteria (>5%) at the surface, indicating changes based on distance from the ocean. This provides the first in-depth view into the ecological drivers of microbial communities within New Zealand fjords.

Functional and Evolutionary Ecology
External organisation(s)
University of Otago
Science of the Total Environment
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
Marine biology
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