Bacterial diversity in relation to secondary production and succession on surfaces of the kelp Laminaria hyperborea

ISME J. 2012 Dec;6(12):2188-98. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2012.67. Epub 2012 Jul 5.


Kelp forests worldwide are known as hotspots for macroscopic biodiversity and primary production, yet very little is known about the biodiversity and roles of microorganisms in these ecosystems. Secondary production by heterotrophic bacteria associated to kelp is important in the food web as a link between kelp primary production and kelp forest consumers. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between bacterial diversity and two important processes in this ecosystem; bacterial secondary production and primary succession on kelp surfaces. To address this, kelp, Laminaria hyperborea, from southwestern Norway was sampled at different geographical locations and during an annual cycle. Pyrosequencing (454-sequencing) of amplicons of the 16S rRNA gene of bacteria was used to study bacterial diversity. Incorporation of tritiated thymidine was used as a measure of bacterial production. Our data show that bacterial diversity (richness and evenness) increases with the age of the kelp surface, which corresponds to the primary succession of its bacterial communities. Higher evenness of bacterial operational taxonomical units (OTUs) is linked to higher bacterial production. Owing to the dominance of a few abundant OTUs, kelp surface biofilm communities may be characterized as low-diversity habitats. This is the first detailed study of kelp-associated bacterial communities using high-throughput sequencing and it extends current knowledge on microbial community assembly and dynamics on living surfaces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Biodiversity*
  • Biofilms
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Food Chain
  • Heterotrophic Processes
  • Kelp / microbiology*
  • Laminaria / microbiology*
  • Norway
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S