Microbial communities of the Arctic Ocean are poorly characterized in comparison to other aquatic environments as to their horizontal, vertical, and temporal turnover. Yet, recent studies showed that the Arctic marine ecosystem harbors unique microbial community members that are adapted to harsh environmental conditions, such as near-freezing temperatures and extreme seasonality. The gene for the small ribosomal subunit (16S rRNA) is commonly used to study the taxonomic composition of microbial communities in their natural environment. Several primer sets for this marker gene have been extensively tested across various sample sets, but these typically originated from low-latitude environments. An explicit evaluation of primer-set performances in representing the microbial communities of the Arctic Ocean is currently lacking. To select a suitable primer set for studying microbiomes of various Arctic marine habitats (sea ice, surface water, marine snow, deep ocean basin, and deep-sea sediment), we have conducted a performance comparison between two widely used primer sets, targeting different hypervariable regions of the 16S rRNA gene (V3-V4 and V4-V5). We observed that both primer sets were highly similar in representing the total microbial community composition down to genus rank, which was also confirmed independently by subgroup-specific catalyzed reporter deposition-fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH) counts. Each primer set revealed higher internal diversity within certain bacterial taxonomic groups (e.g., the class Bacteroidia by V3-V4, and the phylum Planctomycetes by V4-V5). However, the V4-V5 primer set provides concurrent coverage of the archaeal domain, a relevant component comprising 10-20% of the community in Arctic deep waters and the sediment. Although both primer sets perform similarly, we suggest the use of the V4-V5 primer set for the integration of both bacterial and archaeal community dynamics in the Arctic marine environment.
In summer 2012, Arctic sea ice declined to a record minimum and, as a consequence of the melting, large amounts of aggregated ice-algae sank to the seafloor at more than 4,000 m depth. In this study, we assessed the composition, turnover and connectivity of bacterial and microbial eukaryotic communities across Arctic habitats from sea ice, algal aggregates and surface waters to the seafloor. Eukaryotic communities were dominated by diatoms, dinoflagellates and other alveolates in all samples, and showed highest richness and diversity in sea-ice habitats (~400-500 OTUs). Flavobacteriia and Gammaproteobacteria were the predominant bacterial classes across all investigated Arctic habitats. Bacterial community richness and diversity peaked in deep-sea samples (~1,700 OTUs). Algal aggregate-associated bacterial communities were mainly recruited from the sea-ice community, and were transported to the seafloor with the sinking ice algae. The algal deposits at the seafloor had a unique community structure, with some shared sequences with both the original sea-ice community (22% OTU overlap), as well as with the deep-sea sediment community (17% OTU overlap). We conclude that ice-algal aggregate export does not only affect carbon export from the surface to the seafloor, but may change microbial community composition in central Arctic habitats with potential effects for benthic ecosystem functioning in the future.
Benthic deep-sea communities are largely dependent on particle flux from surface waters. In the Arctic Ocean, environmental changes occur more rapidly than in other ocean regions, and have major effects on the export of organic matter to the deep sea. Because bacteria constitute the majority of deep-sea benthic biomass and influence global element cycles, it is important to better understand how changes in organic matter input will affect bacterial communities at the Arctic seafloor. In a multidisciplinary ex situ experiment, benthic bacterial deep-sea communities from the Long-Term Ecological Research Observatory HAUSGARTEN were supplemented with different types of habitat-related detritus (chitin, Arctic algae) and incubated for 23 days under in situ conditions. Chitin addition caused strong changes in community activity, while community structure remained similar to unfed control incubations. In contrast, the addition of phytodetritus resulted in strong changes in community composition, accompanied by increased community activity, indicating the need for adaptation in these treatments. High-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and 16S rRNA revealed distinct taxonomic groups of potentially fast-growing, opportunistic bacteria in the different detritus treatments. Compared to the unfed control, Colwelliaceae, Psychromonadaceae, and Oceanospirillaceae increased in relative abundance in the chitin treatment, whereas Flavobacteriaceae, Marinilabiaceae, and Pseudoalteromonadaceae increased in the phytodetritus treatments. Hence, these groups may constitute indicator taxa for the different organic matter sources at this study site. In summary, differences in community structure and in the uptake and remineralization of carbon in the different treatments suggest an effect of organic matter quality on bacterial diversity as well as on carbon turnover at the seafloor, an important feedback mechanism to be considered in future climate change scenarios.