Changes in epiphytic bacterial communities of intertidal seaweeds modulated by host, temporality, and copper enrichment

Microb Ecol. 2010 Aug;60(2):282-90. doi: 10.1007/s00248-010-9647-0. Epub 2010 Mar 24.


This study reports on the factors involved in regulating the composition and structure of bacterial communities epiphytic on intertidal macroalgae, exploring their temporal variability and the role of copper pollution. Culture-independent, molecular approaches were chosen for this purpose and three host species were used as models: the ephemeral Ulva spp. (Chlorophyceae) and Scytosiphon lomentaria (Phaeophyceae) and the long-living Lessonia nigrescens (Phaeophyceae). The algae were collected from two coastal areas in Northern Chile, where the main contrast was the concentration of copper in the seawater column resulting from copper-mine waste disposals. We found a clear and strong effect in the structure of the bacterial communities associated with the algal species serving as host. The structure of the bacterial communities also varied through time. The effect of copper on the structure of the epiphytic bacterial communities was significant in Ulva spp., but not on L. nigrescens. The use of 16S rRNA gene library analysis to compare bacterial communities in Ulva revealed that they were composed of five phyla and six classes, with approximately 35 bacterial species, dominated by members of Bacteroidetes (Cytophaga-Flavobacteria-Bacteroides) and α-Proteobacteria, in both non-polluted and polluted sites. Less common groups, such as the Verrucomicrobiae, were exclusively found in polluted sites. This work shows that the structure of bacterial communities epiphytic on macroalgae is hierarchically determined by algal species > temporal changes > copper levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Chile
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Gene Library
  • Microbial Consortia*
  • Mining
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Seaweed / microbiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Copper