Seasonality combined with the orientation of surfaces influences the microbial community structure of biofilms in the deep Mediterranean Sea

Nikoleta Bellou, Juan Antonio L. Garcia, Franciscus Colijn, Gerhard J. Herndl

Attachment to surfaces represents an important life strategy for microbial communities as indicated by the rapid colonization of biotic and abiotic surfaces in marine waters. However, little attention has been paid to the development of biofilm-associated microbial communities and the environmental parameters influencing biofilm development in the deep sea. In this study, a deep-sea experimental setup was used to follow the development of the microbial community colonizing solid surfaces deployed at 4500 m depth at the deepest point of the Mediterranean Sea. The experiment was performed during summer (May to October 2007) and winter (October 2007–May 2008), each lasting for 155 d. The phylogenetic composition of the biofilm community was determined by tag sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. We investigated whether the composition of the deep-sea microbial biofilms is influenced by seasonality. Based on tag sequencing, operational taxonomic units were identified and diversity indices calculated. Seasonality combined with the orientation of the solid surface on which the biofilms were growing was the main factor influencing the structure of the microbial community. The most abundant phyla of deep-sea biofilm communities attached to the solid surfaces were Gammaproteobacteria (range: 10.8%–92.6%), Alphaproteobacteria (range: 34.9%–92.6%) and Betaproteobacteria (range: 0.3%–2.1%), irrespective of the variables (surface, orientation, season). Flavobacteria and Epsilonbacteria show a clear preference with respect to the orientation of the deployed surfaces during the winter, however, they were essentially absent at the surfaces during the summer. Some bacterial classes such as Campylobacterales and Rhodobacterales showed distinct preferences for specific seasons or orientation of the substrate. Taken together, we conclude that even on deep-sea biofilms, there is to some extent seasonality detectable in the composition of the surface associated prokaryotic community, despite the fact that the deep-sea is, in terms of physico-chemical parameters, a fairly stable environment.

Functional and Evolutionary Ecology
External organisation(s)
Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht - Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Utrecht University
Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
Marine biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Portal url