Shallow water marine sediment bacterial community shifts along a natural CO2 gradient in the Mediterranean Sea off Vulcano, Italy.
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The effects of increasing atmospheric CO(2) on ocean ecosystems are a major environmental concern, as rapid shoaling of the carbonate saturation horizon is exposing vast areas of marine sediments to corrosive waters worldwide. Natural CO(2) gradients off Vulcano, Italy, have revealed profound ecosystem changes along rocky shore habitats as carbonate saturation levels decrease, but no investigations have yet been made of the sedimentary habitat. Here, we sampled the upper 2 cm of volcanic sand in three zones, ambient (median pCO(2) 419 μatm, minimum Ω(arag) 3.77), moderately CO(2)-enriched (median pCO(2) 592 μatm, minimum Ω(arag) 2.96), and highly CO(2)-enriched (median pCO(2) 1611 μatm, minimum Ω(arag) 0.35). We tested the hypothesis that increasing levels of seawater pCO(2) would cause significant shifts in sediment bacterial community composition, as shown recently in epilithic biofilms at the study site. In this study, 454 pyrosequencing of the V1 to V3 region of the 16S rRNA gene revealed a shift in community composition with increasing pCO(2). The relative abundances of most of the dominant genera were unaffected by the pCO(2) gradient, although there were significant differences for some 5 % of the genera present (viz. Georgenia, Lutibacter, Photobacterium, Acinetobacter, and Paenibacillus), and Shannon Diversity was greatest in sediments subject to long-term acidification (>100 years). Overall, this supports the view that globally increased ocean pCO(2) will be associated with changes in sediment bacterial community composition but that most of these organisms are resilient. However, further work is required to assess whether these results apply to other types of coastal sediments and whether the changes in relative abundance of bacterial taxa that we observed can significantly alter the biogeochemical functions of marine sediments.
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