Unravelling the relationship between biological diversity and ecosystem functions is a timeless question which dates back to the expeditions of Alexander von Humboldt in the early 1800’. At the base of the marine foodweb, marine prokaryotes are essential for ecosystem functioning. Measuring their biogeography and functional traits therefore merits investigation as alterations in their alpha and beta diversities could lead to changes in the fluxes of oceanic biogeochemical cycles that sustain the life on Earth.
In a new article, published in Nature Communications, the authors used the genetic fingerprint of marine bacteria to predict their metabolic profiles from the ice edge to the equator in the Pacific Ocean. Their research showed that low-cost, high-throughput bacterial marker gene data can be used as a tool for large-scale functional ecology. They tackled five hypotheses and show how biological diversity influences functional diversity, and how these are related to energy production in the ocean. The authors, furthermore, highlight how - can be nicely integrated with the physical and chemical sampling programs during global ocean monitoring campaigns such as GO-SHIP and GEOTRACES.
Increasing our understanding how bacterial diversity impacts the functional diversity of ecosystems has also broader implications. For example, bacterial fingerprints can help us to improve marine ecosystem monitoring programs, especially in coastal zones and estuaries where the input of nitrogen is predicted to increase. Assessing the changes in the bacterial diversity can also help to assess the environmental footprint of aquaculture cages, which are a source of nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and have been shown to deteriorate the water quality and life higher up the food chain.
Eric J. Raes (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia; Dalhousie University, Canada)
Kristen Karsh (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia)
Swan L. S. Sow (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia; University of Tasmania, Hobart; NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, The Netherlands)
Martin Ostrowski (University of Technology Sydney, Australia)
Mark V. Brown (The University of Newcastle, Australia)
Jodie van de Kamp (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia)
Rita M. Franco-Santos (University of Tasmania, Australia)
Levente Bodrossy (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia)
Anya M. Waite (Dalhousie University, Canada)
Read this related general audience article in The Conversation
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Raes, E. J., Bodrossy, L., Van De Kamp, J., Bissett, A., Ostrowski, M., Brown, M. V., ... & Waite, A. M. (2018). Oceanographic boundaries constrain microbial diversity gradients in the South Pacific Ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(35), E8266-E8275.
Raes, E. J., van de Kamp, J., Bodrossy, L., Fong, A. A., Riekenberg, J., Holmes, B. H., ... & Waite, A. M. (2020). N2 fixation and new insights into nitrification from the ice-edge to the equator in the South Pacific Ocean. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, 389.
Sow, S. L., Trull, T. W., & Bodrossy, L. (2020). Oceanographic Fronts Shape Phaeocystis Assemblages: A High-Resolution 18S rRNA Gene Survey From the Ice-Edge to the Equator of the South Pacific. Frontiers in microbiology, 11, 1847.