Recreational water quality, as measured by culturable fecal indicator bacteria (FIB), may be influenced by persistent populations of these bacteria in local sands or wrack, in addition to varied fecal inputs from human and/or animal sources. In this study, pyrosequencing was used to generate short sequence tags of the 16S hypervariable region ribosomal DNA from shallow water samples and from sand samples collected at the high tide line and at the intertidal water line at sites with and without FIB exceedance events. These data were used to examine the sand and water bacterial communities to assess the similarity between samples, and to determine the impact of water quality exceedance events on the community composition. Sequences belonging to a group of bacteria previously identified as alternative fecal indicators were also analyzed in relationship to water quality violation events. We found that sand and water samples hosted distinctly different overall bacterial communities, and there was greater similarity in the community composition between coastal water samples from two distant sites. The dissimilarity between high tide and intertidal sand bacterial communities, although more similar to each other than to water, corresponded to greater tidal range between the samples. Within the group of alternative fecal indicators greater similarity was observed within sand and water from the same site, likely reflecting the anthropogenic contribution at each beach. This study supports the growing evidence that community-based molecular tools can be leveraged to identify the sources and potential impact of fecal pollution in the environment, and furthermore suggests that a more diverse bacterial community in beach sand and water may reflect a less contaminated site and better water quality.
DNA samples derived from vertebrate skin, bodily cavities and body fluids contain both host and microbial DNA; the latter often present as a minor component. Consequently, DNA sequencing of a microbiome sample frequently yields reads originating from the microbe(s) of interest, but with a vast excess of host genome-derived reads. In this study, we used a methyl-CpG binding domain (MBD) to separate methylated host DNA from microbial DNA based on differences in CpG methylation density. MBD fused to the Fc region of a human antibody (MBD-Fc) binds strongly to protein A paramagnetic beads, forming an effective one-step enrichment complex that was used to remove human or fish host DNA from bacterial and protistan DNA for subsequent sequencing and analysis. We report enrichment of DNA samples from human saliva, human blood, a mock malaria-infected blood sample and a black molly fish. When reads were mapped to reference genomes, sequence reads aligning to host genomes decreased 50-fold, while bacterial and Plasmodium DNA sequences reads increased 8–11.5-fold. The Shannon-Wiener diversity index was calculated for 149 bacterial species in saliva before and after enrichment. Unenriched saliva had an index of 4.72, while the enriched sample had an index of 4.80. The similarity of these indices demonstrates that bacterial species diversity and relative phylotype abundance remain conserved in enriched samples. Enrichment using the MBD-Fc method holds promise for targeted microbiome sequence analysis across a broad range of sample types.
Microbes are transported in hydrological networks through many environments, but the nature and dynamics of underlying microbial metacommunities and the impact of downslope inoculation on patterns of microbial diversity across landscapes are unknown. Pyrosequencing of small subunit ribosomal RNA gene hypervariable regions to characterize microbial communities along a hydrological continuum in arctic tundra showed a pattern of decreasing diversity downslope, with highest species richness in soil waters and headwater streams, and lowest richness in lake water. In a downstream lake, 58% and 43% of the bacterial and archaeal taxa, respectively, were also detected in diverse upslope communities, including most of the numerically dominant lake taxa. In contrast, only 18% of microbial eukaryotic taxa in the lake were detected upslope. We suggest that patterns of diversity in surface waters are structured by initial inoculation from microbial reservoirs in soils followed by a species-sorting process during downslope dispersal of both common and rare microbial taxa. Our results suggest that, unlike for metazoans, a substantial portion of bacterial and archaeal diversity in surface freshwaters may originate in complex soil environments.
Bacteria; Archaea; Eukarya; metacommunity; landscape; MIRADA-LTERS
The Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Site (17.50°S, 149.83°W) comprises the fringe of coral reefs and lagoons surrounding the volcanic island of Moorea in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. As part of our Microbial Inventory Research Across Diverse Aquatic LTERS biodiversity inventory project, we characterized microbial community composition across all three domains of life using amplicon pyrosequencing of the V6 (bacterial and archaeal) and V9 (eukaryotic) hypervariable regions of small-subunit ribosomal RNA genes. Our survey spanned eight locations along a 130-km transect from the reef lagoon to the open ocean to examine changes in communities along inshore to offshore gradients. Our results illustrate consistent community differentiation between inshore and offshore ecosystems across all three domains, with greater richness in all domains in the reef-associated habitats. Bacterial communities were more homogenous among open ocean sites spanning >100 km than among inshore sites separated by <1 km, whereas eukaryotic communities varied more offshore than inshore, and archaea showed more equal levels of dissimilarity among subhabitats. We identified signature communities representative of specific geographic and geochemical milieu, and characterized co-occurrence patterns of specific microbial taxa within the inshore ecosystem including several bacterial groups that persist in geographical niches across time. Bacterial and archaeal communities were dominated by few abundant taxa but spatial patterning was consistent through time and space in both rare and abundant communities. This is the first in-depth inventory analysis of biogeographic variation of all three microbial domains within a coral reef ecosystem.
coral reef; MIRADA-LTERS; pyrosequencing; V6; V9
Extremely acidic (pH < 3) and extremely alkaline (pH > 9) environments support a diversity of single-cell and to a lesser extent, multicellular eukaryotic life. This study compared alpha and beta diversity in eukaryotic communities from seven diverse aquatic environments with pH values ranging from 2 to 11 using massively-parallel pyrotag sequencing targeting the V9 hypervariable region of the 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene. A total of 946 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were recovered at a 6% cut-off level (94% similarity) across the sampled environments. Hierarchical clustering of the samples segregated the communities into acidic and alkaline groups. Similarity percentage (SIMPER) analysis followed by indicator OTU analysis (IOA) and non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) were used to determine which characteristic groups of eukaryotic taxa typify acidic or alkaline extremes and the extent to which pH explains eukaryotic community structure in these environments. Spain's Rio Tinto yielded the fewest observed OTUs while Nebraska Sandhills alkaline lakes yielded the most. Distinct OTUs, including metazoan OTUs, numerically dominated pH extreme sites. Indicator OTUs included the diatom Pinnularia and unidentified opisthokonts (Fungi and Filasterea) in the extremely acidic environments, and the ciliate Frontonia across the extremely alkaline sites. Inferred from NMDS, pH explained only a modest fraction of the variation across the datasets, indicating that other factors influence the underlying community structure in these environments. The findings from this study suggest that the ability for eukaryotes to adapt to pH extremes over a broad range of values may be rare, but further study of taxa that can broadly adapt across diverse acidic and alkaline environments, respectively present good models for understanding adaptation and should be targeted for future investigations.
acidophiles; alkaliphiles; pyrosequencing; protists; V9; indicator OTU analysis
The Arctic is highly sensitive to increasing global temperatures and is projected to experience dramatic ecological shifts in the next few decades. Oligosaline lakes are common in arctic regions where evaporation surpasses precipitation, however these extreme microbial communities are poorly characterized. Many oligosaline lakes, in contrast to freshwater ones, experience annual blooms of haptophyte algae that generate valuable alkenone biomarker records that can be used for paleoclimate reconstruction. These haptophyte algae are globally important, and globally distributed, aquatic phototrophs yet their presence in microbial molecular surveys is scarce. To target haptophytes in a molecular survey, we compared microbial community structure during two haptophyte bloom events in an arctic oligosaline lake, Lake BrayaSø in southwestern Greenland, using high-throughput pyrotag sequencing. Our comparison of two annual bloom events yielded surprisingly low taxon overlap, only 13% for bacterial and 26% for eukaryotic communities, which indicates significant annual variation in the underlying microbial populations. Both the bacterial and eukaryotic communities strongly resembled high-altitude and high latitude freshwater environments. In spite of high alkenone concentrations in the water column, and corresponding high haptophyte rRNA gene copy numbers, haptophyte pyrotag sequences were not the most abundant eukaryotic tag, suggesting that sequencing biases obscured relative abundance data. With over 170 haptophyte tag sequences, we observed only one haptophyte algal Operational Taxonomic Unit, a prerequisite for accurate paleoclimate reconstruction from the lake sediments. Our study is the first to examine microbial diversity in a Greenland lake using next generation sequencing and the first to target an extreme haptophyte bloom event. Our results provide a context for future explorations of aquatic ecology in the warming arctic.
haptophytes; pyrosequencing; alkenones; lake bloom; arctic
Ornamental fishes are among the most popular and fastest growing categories of pets in the United States (U.S.). The global scope and scale of the ornamental fish trade and growing popularity of pet fish in the U.S. are strong indicators of the myriad economic and social benefits the pet industry provides. Relatively little is known about the microbial communities associated with these ornamental fishes or the aquarium water in which they are transported and housed. Using conventional molecular approaches and next generation high-throughput amplicon sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA gene hypervariable regions, we characterized the bacterial community of aquarium water containing common goldfish (Carassius auratus) and Chinese algae eaters (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) purchased from seven pet/aquarium shops in Rhode Island and identified the presence of potential pathogens. Our survey identified a total of 30 phyla, the most common being Proteobacteria (52%), Bacteroidetes (18%) and Planctomycetes (6%), with the top four phyla representing >80% of all sequences. Sequences from our water samples were most closely related to eleven bacterial species that have the potential to cause disease in fishes, humans and other species: Coxiella burnetii, Flavobacterium columnare, Legionella birminghamensis, L. pneumophila, Vibrio cholerae, V. mimicus. V. vulnificus, Aeromonas schubertii, A. veronii, A. hydrophila and Plesiomonas shigelloides. Our results, combined with evidence from the literature, suggest aquarium tank water harboring ornamental fish are an understudied source for novel microbial communities and pathogens that pose potential risks to the pet industry, fishes in trade, humans and other species.
To make full use of research data, the bioscience community needs to adopt technologies and reward mechanisms that support interoperability and promote the growth of an open ‘data commoning’ culture. Here we describe the prerequisites for data commoning and present an established and growing ecosystem of solutions using the shared ‘Investigation-Study-Assay’ framework to support that vision.
Coral reefs are highly productive ecosystems bathed in unproductive, low-nutrient oceanic waters, where microbially dominated food webs are supported largely by bacterioplankton recycling of dissolved compounds. Despite evidence that benthic reef organisms efficiently scavenge particulate organic matter and inorganic nutrients from advected oceanic waters, our understanding of the role of bacterioplankton and dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the interaction between reefs and the surrounding ocean remains limited. In this study, we present the results of a 4-year study conducted in a well-characterized coral reef ecosystem (Paopao Bay, Moorea, French Polynesia) where changes in bacterioplankton abundance and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations were quantified and bacterial community structure variation was examined along spatial gradients of the reef:ocean interface. Our results illustrate that the reef is consistently depleted in concentrations of both DOC and bacterioplankton relative to offshore waters (averaging 79 μmol l−1 DOC and 5.5 × 108 cells l−1 offshore and 68 μmol l−1 DOC and 3.1 × 108 cells l−1 over the reef, respectively) across a 4-year time period. In addition, using a suite of culture-independent measures of bacterial community structure, we found consistent differentiation of reef bacterioplankton communities from those offshore or in a nearby embayment across all taxonomic levels. Reef habitats were enriched in Gamma-, Delta-, and Betaproteobacteria, Bacteriodetes, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes. Specific bacterial phylotypes, including members of the SAR11, SAR116, Flavobacteria, and Synechococcus clades, exhibited clear gradients in relative abundance among nearshore habitats. Our observations indicate that this reef system removes oceanic DOC and exerts selective pressures on bacterioplankton community structure on timescales approximating reef water residence times, observations which are notable both because fringing reefs do not exhibit long residence times (unlike those characteristic of atoll lagoons) and because oceanic DOC is generally recalcitrant to degradation by ambient microbial assemblages. Our findings thus have interesting implications for the role of oceanic DOM and bacterioplankton in the ecology and metabolism of reef ecosystems.
pyrosequencing; dissolved organic carbon; bacterioplankton; MIRADA; flow cytometry; coral reef
Building on the planning efforts of the RCN4GSC project, a workshop was convened in San Diego to bring together experts from genomics and metagenomics, biodiversity, ecology, and bioinformatics with the charge to identify potential for positive interactions and progress, especially building on successes at establishing data standards by the GSC and by the biodiversity and ecological communities. Until recently, the contribution of microbial life to the biomass and biodiversity of the biosphere was largely overlooked (because it was resistant to systematic study). Now, emerging genomic and metagenomic tools are making investigation possible. Initial research findings suggest that major advances are in the offing. Although different research communities share some overlapping concepts and traditions, they differ significantly in sampling approaches, vocabularies and workflows. Likewise, their definitions of ‘fitness for use’ for data differ significantly, as this concept stems from the specific research questions of most importance in the different fields. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that there is much to be gained from greater coordination and integration. As a first step toward interoperability of the information systems used by the different communities, participants agreed to conduct a case study on two of the leading data standards from the two formerly disparate fields: (a) GSC’s standard checklists for genomics and metagenomics and (b) TDWG’s Darwin Core standard, used primarily in taxonomy and systematic biology.
We are entering a new era in genomics–that of large-scale, place-based, highly contextualized genomic research. Here we review this emerging paradigm shift and suggest that sites of utmost scientific importance be expanded into ‘Genomic Observatories’ (GOs). Investment in GOs should focus on the digital characterization of whole ecosystems, from all-taxa biotic inventories to time-series ’omics studies. The foundational layer of biodiversity–genetic variation–would thus be mainstreamed into Earth Observation systems enabling predictive modelling of biodiversity dynamics and resultant impacts on ecosystem services.
Ecogenomics; Earth observation; Biodiversity; Ecosystems; Biocode; Genomic observatory; DNA
Here we present a standard developed by the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) for reporting marker gene sequences—the minimum information about a marker gene sequence (MIMARKS). We also introduce a system for describing the environment from which a biological sample originates. The ‘environmental packages’ apply to any genome sequence of known origin and can be used in combination with MIMARKS and other GSC checklists. Finally, to establish a unified standard for describing sequence data and to provide a single point of entry for the scientific community to access and learn about GSC checklists, we present the minimum information about any (x) sequence (MIxS). Adoption of MIxS will enhance our ability to analyze natural genetic diversity documented by massive DNA sequencing efforts from myriad ecosystems in our ever-changing biosphere.
Amoeboid protists that harbor bacterial pathogens are of significant interest as potential reservoirs of disease-causing organisms in the environment, but little is known about them in marine and other saline environments. We enriched amoeba cultures from sediments from four sites in the New England estuarine system of Mt. Hope Bay, Massachusetts and from sediments from six sites in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. Cultures of amoebae were enriched using both minimal- and non-nutrient agar plates, made with fresh water, brackish water or saltwater. Recovered amoeba cultures were assayed for the presence of Legionella species using nested polymerase chain reactions (PCR) and primers specific for the genus. Positive samples were then screened with nested amplification using primers specific for the macrophage infectivity potentiator surface protein (mip) gene from L. pneumophila. Forty-eight percent (185 out of 388) of isolated amoeba cultures were positive for the presence of Legionella species. Legionella pneumophila was detected by PCR in 4% of the amoeba cultures (17 out of 388), and most of these amoebae were growing on marine media. Our results show that amoebae capable of growing in saline environments may harbor not only a diverse collection of Legionella species, but also species potentially pathogenic to humans.
Amoeba; diversity; Legionella; marine; salt
Understanding biotic versus abiotic forces that shape community structure is a fundamental aim of microbial ecology. The acidic and heavy metal extreme Río Tinto (RT) in southwestern Spain provides a rare opportunity to conduct an ecosystem-wide biodiversity inventory at the level of all three domains of life, because diversity there is low and almost exclusively microbial. Despite improvements in high-throughput DNA sequencing, environmental biodiversity studies that use molecular metrics and consider entire ecosystems are rare. These studies can be prohibitively expensive if domains are considered separately, and differences in copy number of eukaryotic ribosomal RNA genes can bias estimates of relative abundances of phylotypes recovered. In this study we have overcome these barriers (1) by targeting all three domains in a single polymerase chain reaction amplification and (2) by using a replicated sampling design that allows for incidence-based methods to extract measures of richness and carry out downstream analyses that address community structuring effects. Our work showed that combined bacterial and archaeal richness is an order of magnitude higher than eukaryotic richness. We also found that eukaryotic richness was highest at the most extreme sites, whereas combined bacterial and archaeal richness was highest at less extreme sites. Quantitative community phylogenetics showed abiotic forces to be primarily responsible for shaping the RT community structure. Canonical correspondence analysis revealed co-occurrence of obligate symbionts and their putative hosts that may contribute to biotic forces shaping community structure and may further provide a possible mechanism for persistence of certain low-abundance bacteria encountered in the RT.
community phylogenetics, astrobiology, CCA
Marine microbial communities have been essential contributors to global biomass, nutrient cycling, and biodiversity since the early history of Earth, but so far their community distribution patterns remain unknown in most marine ecosystems.
The synthesis of 9.6 million bacterial V6-rRNA amplicons for 509 samples that span the global ocean's surface to the deep-sea floor shows that pelagic and benthic communities greatly differ, at all taxonomic levels, and share <10% bacterial types defined at 3% sequence similarity level. Surface and deep water, coastal and open ocean, and anoxic and oxic ecosystems host distinct communities that reflect productivity, land influences and other environmental constraints such as oxygen availability. The high variability of bacterial community composition specific to vent and coastal ecosystems reflects the heterogeneity and dynamic nature of these habitats. Both pelagic and benthic bacterial community distributions correlate with surface water productivity, reflecting the coupling between both realms by particle export. Also, differences in physical mixing may play a fundamental role in the distribution patterns of marine bacteria, as benthic communities showed a higher dissimilarity with increasing distance than pelagic communities.
This first synthesis of global bacterial distribution across different ecosystems of the World's oceans shows remarkable horizontal and vertical large-scale patterns in bacterial communities. This opens interesting perspectives for the definition of biogeographical biomes for bacteria of ocean waters and the seabed.
A vast and rich body of information has grown up as a result of the world's enthusiasm for 'omics technologies. Finding ways to describe and make available this information that maximise its usefulness has become a major effort across the 'omics world. At the heart of this effort is the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC), an open-membership organization that drives community-based standardization activities, Here we provide a short history of the GSC, provide an overview of its range of current activities, and make a call for the scientific community to join forces to improve the quality and quantity of contextual information about our public collections of genomes, metagenomes, and marker gene sequences.
The deep sea floor is considered one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Recent environmental DNA surveys based on clone libraries of rRNA genes confirm this observation and reveal a high diversity of eukaryotes present in deep-sea sediment samples. However, environmental clone-library surveys yield only a modest number of sequences with which to evaluate the diversity of abyssal eukaryotes.
Here, we examined the richness of eukaryotic DNA in deep Arctic and Southern Ocean samples using massively parallel sequencing of the 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) V9 hypervariable region. In very small volumes of sediments, ranging from 0.35 to 0.7 g, we recovered up to 7,499 unique sequences per sample. By clustering sequences having up to 3 differences, we observed from 942 to 1756 Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) per sample. Taxonomic analyses of these OTUs showed that DNA of all major groups of eukaryotes is represented at the deep-sea floor. The dinoflagellates, cercozoans, ciliates, and euglenozoans predominate, contributing to 17%, 16%, 10%, and 8% of all assigned OTUs, respectively. Interestingly, many sequences represent photosynthetic taxa or are similar to those reported from the environmental surveys of surface waters. Moreover, each sample contained from 31 to 71 different metazoan OTUs despite the small sample volume collected. This indicates that a significant faction of the eukaryotic DNA sequences likely do not belong to living organisms, but represent either free, extracellular DNA or remains and resting stages of planktonic species.
In view of our study, the deep-sea floor appears as a global DNA repository, which preserves genetic information about organisms living in the sediment, as well as in the water column above it. This information can be used for future monitoring of past and present environmental changes.
Recent advances in sequencing strategies make possible unprecedented depth and scale of sampling for molecular detection of microbial diversity. Two major paradigm-shifting discoveries include the detection of bacterial diversity that is one to two orders of magnitude greater than previous estimates, and the discovery of an exciting 'rare biosphere' of molecular signatures ('species') of poorly understood ecological significance. We applied a high-throughput parallel tag sequencing (454 sequencing) protocol adopted for eukaryotes to investigate protistan community complexity in two contrasting anoxic marine ecosystems (Framvaren Fjord, Norway; Cariaco deep-sea basin, Venezuela). Both sampling sites have previously been scrutinized for protistan diversity by traditional clone library construction and Sanger sequencing. By comparing these clone library data with 454 amplicon library data, we assess the efficiency of high-throughput tag sequencing strategies. We here present a novel, highly conservative bioinformatic analysis pipeline for the processing of large tag sequence data sets.
The analyses of ca. 250,000 sequence reads revealed that the number of detected Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) far exceeded previous richness estimates from the same sites based on clone libraries and Sanger sequencing. More than 90% of this diversity was represented by OTUs with less than 10 sequence tags. We detected a substantial number of taxonomic groups like Apusozoa, Chrysomerophytes, Centroheliozoa, Eustigmatophytes, hyphochytriomycetes, Ichthyosporea, Oikomonads, Phaeothamniophytes, and rhodophytes which remained undetected by previous clone library-based diversity surveys of the sampling sites. The most important innovations in our newly developed bioinformatics pipeline employ (i) BLASTN with query parameters adjusted for highly variable domains and a complete database of public ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences for taxonomic assignments of tags; (ii) a clustering of tags at k differences (Levenshtein distance) with a newly developed algorithm enabling very fast OTU clustering for large tag sequence data sets; and (iii) a novel parsing procedure to combine the data from individual analyses.
Our data highlight the magnitude of the under-sampled 'protistan gap' in the eukaryotic tree of life. This study illustrates that our current understanding of the ecological complexity of protist communities, and of the global species richness and genome diversity of protists, is severely limited. Even though 454 pyrosequencing is not a panacea, it allows for more comprehensive insights into the diversity of protistan communities, and combined with appropriate statistical tools, enables improved ecological interpretations of the data and projections of global diversity.
Massively parallel pyrosequencing of amplicons from the V6 hypervariable regions of small-subunit (SSU) ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes is commonly used to assess diversity and richness in bacterial and archaeal populations. Recent advances in pyrosequencing technology provide read lengths of up to 240 nucleotides. Amplicon pyrosequencing can now be applied to longer variable regions of the SSU rRNA gene including the V9 region in eukaryotes.
We present a protocol for the amplicon pyrosequencing of V9 regions for eukaryotic environmental samples for biodiversity inventories and species richness estimation. The International Census of Marine Microbes (ICoMM) and the Microbial Inventory Research Across Diverse Aquatic Long Term Ecological Research Sites (MIRADA-LTERs) projects are already employing this protocol for tag sequencing of eukaryotic samples in a wide diversity of both marine and freshwater environments.
Massively parallel pyrosequencing of eukaryotic V9 hypervariable regions of SSU rRNA genes provides a means of estimating species richness from deeply-sampled populations and for discovering novel species from the environment.
Hurricanes have the potential to alter the structures of coastal ecosystems and generate pathogen-laden floodwaters that threaten public health. To examine the impact of hurricanes on urban systems, we compared microbial community structures in samples collected after Hurricane Katrina and before and after Hurricane Rita. We extracted environmental DNA and sequenced small-subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene clone libraries to survey microbial communities in floodwater, water and sediment samples collected from Lake Charles, Lake Pontchartrain, the 17th Street and Industrial Canals in New Orleans and raw sewage. Correspondence Analysis showed that microbial communities associated with sediments formed one cluster while communities associated with lake and Industrial Canal water formed a second. Communities associated with water from the 17th Street Canal and floodwaters collected in New Orleans showed similarity to communities in raw sewage and contained a number of sequences associated with possible pathogenic microbes. This suggests that a distinct microbial community developed in floodwaters following Hurricane Katrina and that microbial community structures as a whole might be sensitive indicators of ecosystem health and serve as “sentinels” of water quality in the environment.
The Río Tinto (RT) is distinguished from other acid mine drainage systems by its natural and ancient origins. Microbial life from all three domains flourishes in this ecosystem, but bacteria dominate metabolic processes that perpetuate environmental extremes. While the patchy geochemistry of the RT likely influences the dynamics of bacterial populations, demonstrating which environmental variables shape microbial diversity and unveiling the mechanisms underlying observed patterns, remain major challenges in microbial ecology whose answers rely upon detailed assessments of community structures coupled with fine-scale measurements of physico-chemical parameters.
By using high-throughput environmental tag sequencing we achieved saturation of richness estimators for the first time in the RT. We found that environmental factors dictate the distribution of the most abundant taxa in this system, but stochastic niche differentiation processes, such as mutation and dispersal, also contribute to observed diversity patterns.
We predict that studies providing clues to the evolutionary and ecological processes underlying microbial distributions will reconcile the ongoing debate between the Baas Becking vs. Hubbell community assembly hypotheses.
Innovative research relating oceans and human health is advancing our understanding of disease-causing organisms in coastal ecosystems. Novel techniques are elucidating the loading, transport and fate of pathogens in coastal ecosystems, and identifying sources of contamination. This research is facilitating improved risk assessments for seafood consumers and those who use the oceans for recreation. A number of challenges still remain and define future directions of research and public policy. Sample processing and molecular detection techniques need to be advanced to allow rapid and specific identification of microbes of public health concern from complex environmental samples. Water quality standards need to be updated to more accurately reflect health risks and to provide managers with improved tools for decision-making. Greater discrimination of virulent versus harmless microbes is needed to identify environmental reservoirs of pathogens and factors leading to human infections. Investigations must include examination of microbial community dynamics that may be important from a human health perspective. Further research is needed to evaluate the ecology of non-enteric water-transmitted diseases. Sentinels should also be established and monitored, providing early warning of dangers to ecosystem health. Taken together, this effort will provide more reliable information about public health risks associated with beaches and seafood consumption, and how human activities can affect their exposure to disease-causing organisms from the oceans.