Macroecological drivers of archaea and bacteria in benthic deep-sea ecosystems

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Science Advances  29 Apr 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 4, e1500961
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500961


Bacteria and archaea dominate the biomass of benthic deep-sea ecosystems at all latitudes, playing a crucial role in global biogeochemical cycles, but their macroscale patterns and macroecological drivers are still largely unknown. We show the results of the most extensive field study conducted so far to investigate patterns and drivers of the distribution and structure of benthic prokaryote assemblages from 228 samples collected at latitudes comprising 34°N to 79°N, and from ca. 400- to 5570-m depth. We provide evidence that, in deep-sea ecosystems, benthic bacterial and archaeal abundances significantly increase from middle to high latitudes, with patterns more pronounced for archaea, and particularly for Marine Group I Thaumarchaeota. Our results also reveal that different microbial components show varying sensitivities to changes in temperature conditions and food supply. We conclude that climate change will primarily affect deep-sea benthic archaea, with important consequences on global biogeochemical cycles, particularly at high latitudes.

  • deep-sea macroecology
  • benthic bacteria
  • archaea
  • environmental drivers
  • global change

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