New article: The effect of carbon subsidies on marine planktonic niche partitioning and recruitment during biofilm assembly

If you see Dr. Ed Hall in the hallways of NREL today, congratulate him and offer to buy him a beer. Dr. Hall, along with co-author Dr. Charles Pepe-Ranney, recently published a new article in the journal Frontiers of Microbiology titled The effect of carbon subsidies on marine planktonic niche partitioning and recruitment during biofilm assembly.  A provisional copy of the article is available via the hyperlink, or can be found by copying and pasting the following link:

Citation: Hall E and Pepe-Ranney C (2015). The effect of carbon subsidies on marine planktonic niche partitioning and recruitment during biofilm assembly. Front. Microbiol. 6:703. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00703


The influence of resource availability on planktonic and biofilm microbial community membership is poorly understood. Heterotrophic bacteria derive some to all of their organic carbon (C) from photoautotrophs while simultaneously competing with photoautotrophs for inorganic nutrients such as phosphorus (P) or nitrogen (N). Therefore, C inputs have the potential to shift the competitive balance of aquatic microbial communities by increasing the resource space available to heterotrophs (more C) while decreasing the resource space available to photoautotrophs (less mineral nutrients due to increased competition from heterotrophs). To test how resource dynamics affect membership of planktonic communities and assembly of biofilm communities we amended a series of flow-through mesocosms with C to alter the availability of C among treatments. Each mesocosm was fed with unfiltered seawater and incubated with sterilized microscope slides as surfaces for biofilm formation. The highest C treatment had the highest planktonic heterotroph abundance, lowest planktonic photoautotroph abundance, and highest biofilm biomass. We surveyed bacterial 16S rRNA genes and plastid 23S rRNA genes to characterize biofilm and planktonic community membership and structure. Regardless of resource additions, biofilm communities had higher alpha diversity than planktonic communities in all mesocosms. Heterotrophic plankton communities were distinct from heterotrophic biofilm communities in all but the highest C treatment where heterotrophic plankton and biofilm communities resembled each other after 17 days. Unlike the heterotrophs, photoautotrophic plankton communities were different than photoautotrophic biofilm communities in composition in all treatments including the highest C treatment. Our results suggest that although resource amendments affect community membership and structure, microbial lifestyle (biofilm versus planktonic) has a stronger influence on community composition.

Featured image courtesy of Dr. Ed Hall: Light microscopy images of marine biofilms evaluated in the current study grown at each of the indicated resource (C:P) ratios

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