Drivers of bacterial diversity dynamics in permeable carbonate and silicate coral reef sands from the Red Sea.Environ Microbiol. 2011 Jul; 13(7):1815-26.EM
Permeable sediments and associated microbial communities play a fundamental role in nutrient recycling within coral reef ecosystems by ensuring high levels of primary production in oligotrophic environments. A previous study on organic matter degradation within biogenic carbonate and terrigenous silicate reef sands in the Red Sea suggested that observed sand-specific differences in microbial activity could be caused by variations in microbial biomass and diversity. Here, we tested this hypothesis by comparing bacterial abundance and community structure in both sand types, and by further exploring the structuring effects of time (season) and space (sediment depth, in/out-reef). Changes in bacterial community structure, as determined via automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA), were primarily driven by sand mineralogy at specific seasons, sediment depths and reef locations. By coupling ARISA with 16S-ITS rRNA sequencing, we detected significant community shifts already at the bacterial class level, with Proteobacteria (Gamma-, Delta-, Alpha-) and Actinobacteria being prominent members of the highly diverse communities. Overall, our findings suggest that reef sand-associated bacterial communities vary substantially with sand type. Especially in synergy with environmental variation over time and space, mineralogical differences seem to play a central role in maintaining high levels of bacterial community heterogeneity. The local co-occurrence of carbonate and silicate sands may thus significantly increase the availability of microbial niches within a single coral reef ecosystem.