Journal Article

Sunken woods on the ocean floor provide diverse specialized habitats for microorganisms

Sonja K. Fagervold, Pierre E. Galand, Magali Zbinden, Françoise Gaill, Philippe Lebaron and Carmen Palacios

in FEMS Microbiology Ecology

Volume 82, issue 3, pages 616-628
Published in print December 2012 |
Published online November 2012 | e-ISSN: 1574-6941 | DOI:

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Marine waterlogged woods on the ocean floor provide the foundation for an ecosystem resulting in high biomass and potentially high macrofaunal diversity, similarly to other large organic falls. However, the microorganisms forming the base of wood fall ecosystems remain poorly known. To study the microbial diversity and community structure of sunken woods, we analyzed over 2800 cloned archaeal and bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences from samples with different geographic locations, depths, and immersion times. The microbial communities from different wood falls were diverse, suggesting that sunken woods provide wide-ranging niches for microorganisms. Microorganisms dwelling at sunken woods change with time of immersion most likely due to a change in chemistry of the wood. We demonstrate, for the first time in sunken woods, the co-occurrence of free-living sulfate-reducing bacteria and methanogens and the presence of sulfide oxidizers. These microorganisms were similar to those of other anaerobic chemoautotrophic environments suggesting that large organic falls can provide similar reduced habitats. Furthermore, quantification of phylogenetic patterns of microbial community assembly indicated that environmental forces (habitat filtering) determined sunken wood microbial community structure at all degradation phases of marine woodfalls. We also include a detailed discussion on novel archaeal and bacterial phylotypes in this newly explored biohabitat.

Keywords: marine microbial diversity; marine woodfalls; phylogenetic community structure; chemosynthetic marine environments

Journal Article.  7057 words.  Illustrated.

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