Szitenberg, Amir, Beca-Carretero, Pedro ORCID:, Azcárate-García, Tomá, Yergaliyev, Timur, Alexander-Shani, Rivka and Winters, Gidon (2022) Teasing apart the host-related, nutrient-related and temperature-related effects shaping the phenology and microbiome of the tropical seagrass Halophila stipulacea. Environmental Microbiome, 17 (1). DOI

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Halophila stipulacea seagrass meadows are an ecologically important and threatened component of the ecosystem in the Gulf of Aqaba. Recent studies have demonstrated correlated geographic patterns for leaf epiphytic community composition and leaf morphology, also coinciding with different levels of water turbidity and nutrient concentrations. Based on these observations, workers have suggested an environmental microbial fingerprint, which may reflect various environmental stress factors seagrasses have experienced, and may add a holobiont level of plasticity to seagrasses, assisting their acclimation to changing environments and through range expansion. However, it is difficult to tease apart environmental effects from host-diversity dependent effects, which have covaried in field studies, although this is required in order to establish that differences in microbial community compositions among sites are driven by environmental conditions rather than by features governed by the host.

In this study we carried out a mesocosm experiment, in which we studied the effects of warming and nutrient stress on the composition of epiphytic bacterial communities and on some phenological traits. We studied H. stipulacea collected from two different meadows in the Gulf of Aqaba, representing differences in the host and the environment alike. We found that the source site from which seagrasses were collected was the major factor governing seagrass phenology, although heat increased shoot mortality and nutrient loading delayed new shoot emergence. Bacterial diversity, however, mostly depended on the environmental conditions. The most prominent pattern was the increase in Rhodobacteraceae under nutrient stress without heat stress, along with an increase in Microtrichaceae. Together, the two taxa have the potential to maintain nitrate reduction followed by an anammox process, which can together buffer the increase in nutrient concentrations across the leaf surface.

Our results thus corroborate the existence of environmental microbial fingerprints, which are independent from the host diversity, and support the notion of a holobiont level plasticity, both important to understand and monitor H. stipulacea ecology under the changing climate.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA2
Research affiliation: Integrated Modelling > Spatial Ecology and Interactions
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
ISSN: 2524-6372
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2024 13:19
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2024 13:19

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