Cross-depth analysis of marine bacterial networks suggests downward propagation of temporal changes

Jacob A. Cram, Li C. Xia, David M. Needham, Rohan Sachdeva, Fengzhu Sun, Jed A. Fuhrman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Interactions among microbes and stratification across depths are both believed to be important drivers of microbial communities, though little is known about how microbial associations differ between and across depths. We have monitored the free-living microbial community at the San Pedro Ocean Time-series station, monthly, for a decade, at five different depths: 5 m, the deep chlorophyll maximum layer, 150 m, 500 m and 890 m (just above the sea floor). Here, we introduce microbial association networks that combine data from multiple ocean depths to investigate both within- and between-depth relationships, sometimes time-lagged, among microbes and environmental parameters. The euphotic zone, deep chlorophyll maximum and 890 m depth each contain two negatively correlated 'modules' (groups of many inter-correlated bacteria and environmental conditions) suggesting regular transitions between two contrasting environmental states. Two-thirds of pairwise correlations of bacterial taxa between depths lagged such that changes in the abundance of deeper organisms followed changes in shallower organisms. Taken in conjunction with previous observations of seasonality at 890 m, these trends suggest that planktonic microbial communities throughout the water column are linked to environmental conditions and/or microbial communities in overlying waters. Poorly understood groups including Marine Group A, Nitrospina and AEGEAN-169 clades contained taxa that showed diverse association patterns, suggesting these groups contain multiple ecological species, each shaped by different factors, which we have started to delineate. These observations build upon previous work at this location, lending further credence to the hypothesis that sinking particles and vertically migrating animals transport materials that significantly shape the time-varying patterns of microbial community composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2573-2586
Number of pages14
JournalISME Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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