Mol. Ecol. 30 (14) 3515-3529 [2021-07-00; online 2021-06-11]
Phytoplankton comprises a large fraction of the vertical carbon flux to deep water via the sinking of particulate organic matter (POM). However, despite the importance of phytoplankton in the coupling of benthic-pelagic productivity, the extent to which its deposition in the sediment affects bacterial dynamics at the water-sediment interface is poorly understood. Here, we conducted a microcosm experiment in which varying mixtures of diatom and cyanobacteria, representing phytoplankton-derived POM of differing quality, served as inputs to sediment cores. Characterization of 16S rRNA gene of the bacterial communities at the water-sediment interface showed that bacterial α-diversity was not affected by POM addition, while bacterial β-diversity changed significantly along the POM quality gradient, with the variation driven by changes in relative abundance rather than in taxon replacement. Analysing individual taxa abundances across the POM gradient revealed two distinct bacterial responses, in which taxa within either diatom- or cyanobacteria-favoured groups were more phylogenetically closely related to one another than other taxa found in the water. Moreover, there was little overlap in taxon identity between sediment and water communities, suggesting the minor role played by sediment bacteria in influencing the observed changes in bacterial communities in the overlying water. Together, these results showed that variability in phytoplankton-originated POM can impact bacterial dynamics at the water-sediment interface. Our findings highlight the importance of considering the potential interactions between phytoplankton and bacteria in benthic-pelagic coupling in efforts to understand the structure and function of bacterial communities under a changing climate.