Internal and external influences on near-surface microbial community structure in the vicinity of the Cape Verde Islands

Microb Ecol. 2012 Jan;63(1):139-48. doi: 10.1007/s00248-011-9952-2. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Microbial community structure in the subtropical north-east Atlantic Ocean was compared between 2 years and variation attributed to environmental variables. Surface seawater communities were analysed by flow cytometry and fluorescence in situ hybridisation. Probes specific to Alphaproteobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes identified 67-100% of cells. Due to natural variation in the study region due to the occurrence of major currents and islands, data could not be pooled but were instead divided between distinct water masses. Community structure did not differ greatly around the Cape Verde Islands between sampling periods but varied substantially in the open ocean, suggesting different environmental perturbations favour specific bacterial groups. Wind speed varied significantly between years, with moderate to strong breeze in winter 2008 and gales in winter 2006 (8.9 ± 0.2 ms(-1) and 16.0 ± 0.4 ms(-1), respectively). Enhanced wind-driven turbulence was associated with domination by the SAR11 clade of Alphaproteobacteria, which were present at 2.4-fold in the abundance of Prochlorococcus (41.8 ± 1.6% cells, compared to 17.7 ± 7.1%). Conversely, the calmer conditions of 2008 seemed to favour Prochlorococcus (40.0 ± 1.2% cells). Prochlorococcus high-light adapted clade HLI were only numerous during wind-driven turbulence, whereas oligotrophic-adapted clade HLII dominated under calm conditions. Bacteroidetes were most prominent in turbulent conditions (9.5 ± 1.3% cells as opposed to 4.7 ± 0.3%), as were Synechococcus. In 2008, a considerable dust deposition event occurred in the region, which may have led to the substantial Gammaproteobacteria population (22.5 ± 4.0% cells compared to 4.6 ± 0.6% in 2006). Wind-driven turbulence may have a significant impact on microbial community structure in the surface ocean. Therefore, community change following dust storm events may be linked to associated wind in addition to dust-derived nutrients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alphaproteobacteria / genetics
  • Alphaproteobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Aquatic Organisms / classification
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacteroidetes / genetics
  • Bacteroidetes / isolation & purification
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Gammaproteobacteria / genetics
  • Gammaproteobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Microbial Consortia*
  • Plankton / microbiology
  • Seawater / microbiology*