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Aquatic Microbial Ecology


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AME 87:139-150 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01976

The microbiome of the seagrass Halophila ovalis: community structuring from plant parts to regional scales

Bertrand Chengxiang Yan1, Golam Rabbani1, Nicole Li Ying Lee2, Jillian Lean Sim Ooi3, Jen Nie Lee4, Danwei Huang2,5,6, Benjamin J. Wainwright1,*

1Yale-NUS College, National University of Singapore, 16 College Avenue West, Singapore 138527, Singapore
2Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 16 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117558, Singapore
3Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
4Faculty of Science and Marine Environment, Universitiy Malaysia Terengganu, Kuala Nerus 21030, Malaysia
5Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions, National University of Singapore, 16 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117558, Singapore
6Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore, 18 Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119227, Singapore
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Seagrass meadows are critical marine ecosystems. They are significant carbon sinks and play numerous important roles in coastal areas. They help to prevent shoreline erosion and serve as nursery grounds for many marine species. Like their terrestrial counterparts, seagrasses form symbiotic relationships with diverse communities of bacteria that help to promote and maintain host fitness. In this study, we sampled the seagrass Halophila ovalis throughout Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia to characterise the associated bacterial communities and distributions in this acknowledged seagrass biodiversity hotspot. Three different parts of the seagrass (leaves, roots and rhizomes) were collected, and a sediment sample was collected in close proximity to each host. We used high-throughput 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing to examine the bacterial communities associated with each plant part and location. Our analyses indicated that bacterial assemblages associated with H. ovalis were distinct among locations, and different plant parts harboured divergent bacterial communities. We uncovered a significant distance-decay relationship, suggesting that dispersal limitations could explain the observed bacterial community structuring. We further identified bacterial indicator amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) that were associated with degraded or healthy seagrass meadows. The identification of indicator ASVs that are indicative of anthropogenically stressed seagrass, or a declining environment, could be used to implement proactive seagrass conservation and management schemes. This study addresses a current scientific gap within the characterisation of seagrass microbiomes, specifically of those from Southeast Asia, a region of acute seagrass losses, and provides a solid foundation for future seagrass research in the region.


KEY WORDS: Indicator species · Microbial ecology · Plant-microbe interactions · Seagrass microbiome · Southeast Asia · South China Sea · Strait of Malacca


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Cite this article as: Yan BC, Rabbani G, Lee NLY, Ooi JLS, Lee JN, Huang D, Wainwright BJ (2021) The microbiome of the seagrass Halophila ovalis: community structuring from plant parts to regional scales. Aquat Microb Ecol 87:139-150. https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01976

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