Interplay of microbial communities with mineral environments in coralline algae

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Feb 25:757:143877. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143877. Epub 2020 Dec 3.


Coralline algae are worldwide carbonate builders, considered to be foundational species and biodiversity hotspots. Coralline habitats face increasing pressure from human activities and effects related to Global Change, yet their ecological properties and adaptive responses remain poorly understood. The relationships of the algal microbiota with the mineral bioconstructions, as well as plasticity and resilience of coralline holobionts in a changing environment, are of particular interest. In the Gulf of California, Neogoniolithon trichotomum (Rhodophyta) is the main carbonate builder in tidal pools. We performed a multi-disciplinary assessment of the N. trichotomum microstructure using XRD, SEM microscopy and SR-FTIR spectromicroscopy. In the algal perithallus, magnesium-calcite and aragonite were spatially segregated and embedded in a polysaccharide matrix (rich in sulfated polysaccharides). Mg-calcites (18-19 mol% Mg) were the main mineral components of the thallus overall, followed by iron carbonates related to dolomite (ankerite) and siderite. Minerals of late evaporitic sequences (sylvite and bischofite) were also present, suggesting potential halophilic microenvironments within the algal thalli. The diverse set of abundant halophilic, halotolerant and oligotrophic taxa, whose abundance increase in the summer, further suggests this condition. We created an integrated model, based on environmental parameters and the microbiota distribution, that identified temperature and nutrient availability (particularly nitrate and silicate) as the main parameters related to specific taxa patterns. Among these, Hahella, Granulossicoccus, Ferrimonas, Spongiibacteraceae and cyanobacterial Xenococcaceae and Nostocaceae change significantly between seasons. These bacterial components might play relevant roles in algal plasticity and adaptive responses to a changing environment. This study contributes to the understanding of the interplay of the prokaryotic microbiota with the mineral microenvironments of coralline algae. Because of their carbonates with potential resistance to dissolution in a higher pCO2 world and their seasonally dynamic bacteria, coralline algae are relevant targets to study coastal resilience and carbonated systems responses to changing environments.

Keywords: Algae carbonates; Biomineralization; Biosignatures; Coralline rhodophyta; Halophilic microenvironments; Marine microbiota.

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Minerals
  • Rhodophyta*
  • Temperature


  • Minerals