Albert S, Hedberg P, Motwani NH, Sjöling S, Winder M, Nascimento FJA
Sci Rep 11 (1) 24033 [2021-12-15; online 2021-12-15]
In coastal aphotic sediments, organic matter (OM) input from phytoplankton is the primary food resource for benthic organisms. Current observations from temperate ecosystems like the Baltic Sea report a decline in spring bloom diatoms, while summer cyanobacteria blooms are becoming more frequent and intense. These climate-driven changes in phytoplankton communities may in turn have important consequences for benthic biodiversity and ecosystem functions, but such questions are not yet sufficiently explored experimentally. Here, in a 4-week experiment, we investigated the response of microeukaryotic and bacterial communities to different types of OM inputs comprising five ratios of two common phytoplankton species in the Baltic Sea, the diatom Skeletonema marinoi and filamentous cyanobacterium Nodularia spumigena. Metabarcoding analyses on 16S and 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) at the experiment termination revealed subtle but significant changes in diversity and community composition of microeukaryotes in response to settling OM quality. Sediment bacteria were less affected, although we observed a clear effect on denitrification gene expression (nirS and nosZ), which was positively correlated with increasing proportions of cyanobacteria. Altogether, these results suggest that future changes in OM input to the seafloor may have important effects on both the composition and function of microbenthic communities.