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Biodiversity and functions of microbial communities associated with sunken woods in marine environments


Sunken woods are widespread in the ocean with highest densities found within sediment accumulation basins and canyons. Recently evidence is accumulating on the importance of these organic matter deposits in the ecology of the ocean because of their potential role in the overall carbon budget of the marine waters. They could also be crucial in the dispersion of organisms across the ocean basin acting as "stepping stones" to other highly reduced habitats. Understanding the mechanisms governing the transformation of this pool of carbon could give clues on a more sustainable management of the ocean.

Despite their importance, to the best of our knowledge there are no microbial diversity studies of wood remnants in the ocean. In the present proposal our aim is to determine the ecosystem-level role of individual microorganisms associated to sunken woods by linking microbial diversity (i.e. assemblage composition) with functions (i.e. biogeochemical role). Serial Analysis of Gene Tags (SAGT), a newly developed s mall subunit rRNA gene sequence-based methodology that can determine relative abundances of microorganisms will be use to characterize the sunken wood microbial ecological diversity.

SAGT will be combined with flow cytometry to investigate active microbial consortia. Correlations of the biodiversity encountered with concomitant physicochemical measurements will help to understand the biogeochemistry of these habitats. We will likely find a shift from heterotrophic to chemosynthetically based communities a long the decomposition process, which has never been demonstrated in sunken woods. We will further characterize the functional diversity of geochemically relevant genes through phylogenetic analysis. Because microbial communities in these habitats are to tally unexplored, new species are likely to be discovered. New strains will be cultured and readily available for the industry as these microorganisms have a great potential importance for biotechnology.

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