Image_2_Regional and Microenvironmental Scale Characterization of the Zostera muelleri Seagrass Microbiome.JPEG
Seagrasses are globally distributed marine plants that represent an extremely valuable component of coastal ecosystems. Like terrestrial plants, seagrass productivity and health are likely to be strongly governed by the structure and function of the seagrass microbiome, which will be distributed across a number of discrete microenvironments within the plant, including the phyllosphere, the endosphere and the rhizosphere, all different in physical and chemical conditions. Here we examined patterns in the composition of the microbiome of the seagrass Zostera muelleri, within six plant-associated microenvironments sampled across four different coastal locations in New South Wales, Australia. Amplicon sequencing approaches were used to characterize the diversity and composition of bacterial, microalgal, and fungal microbiomes and ultimately identify “core microbiome” members that were conserved across sampling microenvironments. Discrete populations of bacteria, microalgae and fungi were observed within specific seagrass microenvironments, including the leaves and roots and rhizomes, with “core” taxa found to persist within these microenvironments across geographically disparate sampling sites. Bacterial, microalgal and fungal community profiles were most strongly governed by intrinsic features of the different seagrass microenvironments, whereby microscale differences in community composition were greater than the differences observed between sampling regions. However, our results showed differing strengths of microbial preferences at the plant scale, since this microenvironmental variability was more pronounced for bacteria than it was for microalgae and fungi, suggesting more specific interactions between the bacterial consortia and the seagrass host, and potentially implying a highly specialized coupling between seagrass and bacterial metabolism and ecology. Due to their persistence within a given seagrass microenvironment, across geographically discrete sampling locations, we propose that the identified “core” microbiome members likely play key roles in seagrass physiology as well as the ecology and biogeochemistry of seagrass habitats.