Copper tolerance and distribution of epibiotic bacteria associated with giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera in southern California

Ecotoxicology. 2015 Jul;24(5):1131-40. doi: 10.1007/s10646-015-1460-6. Epub 2015 Apr 18.


Kelp forests in southern California are important ecosystems that provide habitat and nutrition to a multitude of species. Macrocystis pyrifera and other brown algae that dominate kelp forests, produce negatively charged polysaccharides on the cell surface, which have the ability to accumulate transition metals such as copper. Kelp forests near areas with high levels of boating and other industrial activities are exposed to increased amounts of these metals, leading to increased concentrations on the algal surface. The increased concentration of transition metals creates a harsh environment for colonizing microbes altering community structure. The impact of altered bacterial populations in the kelp forest have unknown consequences that could be harmful to the health of the ecosystem. In this study we describe the community of microorganisms associated with M. pyrifera, using a culture based approach, and their increasing tolerance to the transition metal, copper, across a gradient of human activity in southern California. The results support the hypothesis that M. pyrifera forms a distinct marine microhabitat and selects for species of bacteria that are rarer in the water column, and that copper-resistant isolates are selected for in locations with elevated exposure to transition metals associated with human activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • California
  • Copper / analysis*
  • Copper / toxicity
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Humans
  • Macrocystis / microbiology*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism


  • Polysaccharides
  • Copper