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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 85:19-34 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01938

Distinct processes structure bacterioplankton and protist communities across an oceanic front

Ro Allen1,5,*, Tina C. Summerfield1, Kim Currie2,3, Peter W. Dillingham4, Linn J. Hoffmann1

1Department of Botany, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
2National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
3Department of Chemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
4Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
5Present address: The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Bacterioplankton and protists fulfil key roles in marine ecosystems. Understanding the abundance and distribution of these organisms through space and time is a central focus of biological oceanographers. The role of oceanographic features, in addition to environmental conditions, in structuring bacterioplankton and protist communities has been increasingly recognised. We investigated patterns in bacterioplankton and protist diversity and community structure across the Southland Front system, a compaction of the subtropical front zone, to the east of New Zealand’s South Island. We collected 24 seawater samples across a ~65 km transect and characterised bacterioplankton and protist community composition using high-throughput sequencing of the 16S and 18S rRNA genes, respectively. We identified frontal waters as a bacterioplankton diversity hotspot relative to neighbouring subtropical and subantarctic waters, but did not find evidence of this effect in protists. Bacterioplankton showed pronounced spatial structuring across the front, with communities closely tracking water type through the region. Protist communities also tracked water type through the region, though this effect was substantially less pronounced. We used an ecological null model approach to demonstrate that protist communities are primarily assembled through stochastic processes, whilst bacterioplankton are primarily assembled through deterministic processes across the Southland Front system. We suggest that this divergence emerges from fundamental differences in the characteristics of bacterioplankton and protist communities. Our findings add to a growing body of literature highlighting the importance of oceanographic features in shaping bacterioplankton and protist communities, promoting the necessity for such features to be considered more explicitly in the future.


KEY WORDS: Community assembly · Microbial biogeography · Subtropical front · Marine microbes · Metabarcoding · 16S rRNA · 18S rRNA


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Cite this article as: Allen R, Summerfield TC, Currie K, Dillingham PW, Hoffmann LJ (2020) Distinct processes structure bacterioplankton and protist communities across an oceanic front. Aquat Microb Ecol 85:19-34. https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01938

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