Insensitivity of Diverse and Temporally Variable Particle-Associated Microbial Communities to Bulk Seawater Environmental Parameters.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


There is a growing recognition of the roles of marine microenvironments as reservoirs of biodiversity and as sites of enhanced biological activity and in facilitating biological interactions. Here, we examine the bacterial community inhabiting free-living and particle-associated seawater microenvironments at the Pivers Island Coastal Observatory (PICO). 16S rRNA gene libraries from monthly samples (July 2013 to August 2014) were used to identify microbes in seawater in four size fractions: >63 μm (zooplankton and large particles), 63 to 5 μm (particles), 5 to 1 μm (small particles/dividing cells), and <1 μm (free-living prokaryotes). Analyses of microbial community composition highlight the importance of the microhabitat (e.g., particle-associated versus free-living lifestyle) as communities cluster by size fraction, and the microhabitat explains more of the community variability than measured environmental parameters, including pH, particle concentration, projected daily insolation, nutrients, and temperature. While temperature is statistically associated with community changes in the <1-μm and 5- to 1-μm fractions, none of the measured bulk seawater environmental variables are statistically significant in the larger-particle-associated fractions. These results, combined with high particle-associated community variability, especially in the largest size fraction (i.e., >63 μm), suggest that particle composition, including eukaryotes and their associated microbiomes, may be an important factor in selecting for specific particle-associated bacteria.


By comparing levels of particle-associated and free-living bacterial diversity at a coastal location over the course of 14 months, we show that bacteria associated with particles are generally more diverse and appear to be less responsive to commonly measured environmental variables than free-living bacteria. These diverse and highly variable particle-associated communities are likely driven by differences in particle substrates both within the water column at a single time point and due to seasonal changes over the course of the year.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Yung, C-M; Ward, CS; Davis, KM; Johnson, ZI; Hunt, DE

Published Date

  • June 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 82 / 11

Start / End Page

  • 3431 - 3437

PubMed ID

  • 27037125

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4959251

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1098-5336

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0099-2240

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1128/aem.00395-16


  • eng