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Temporal and spatial constraints on community assembly during microbial colonization of wood in seawater

Fagervold, Sonja K.
Pruski, Audrey M.
VÉTİON, Gilles
Yücel, Mustafa
LE BRİS, Nadine
Galand, Pierre E.
Wood falls on the ocean floor form chemosynthetic ecosystems that remain poorly studied compared with features such as hydrothermal vents or whale falls. In particular, the microbes forming the base of this unique ecosystem are not well characterized and the ecology of communities is not known. Here we use wood as a model to study microorganisms that establish and maintain a chemosynthetic ecosystem. We conducted both aquaria and in situ deep-sea experiments to test how different environmental constraints structure the assembly of bacterial, archaeal and fungal communities. We also measured changes in wood lipid concentrations and monitored sulfide production as a way to detect potential microbial activity. We show that wood falls are dynamic ecosystems with high spatial and temporal community turnover, and that the patterns of microbial colonization change depending on the scale of observation. The most illustrative example was the difference observed between pine and oak wood community dynamics. In pine, communities changed spatially, with strong differences in community composition between wood microhabitats, whereas in oak, communities changed more significantly with time of incubation. Changes in community assembly were reflected by changes in phylogenetic diversity that could be interpreted as shifts between assemblies ruled by species sorting to assemblies structured by competitive exclusion. These ecological interactions followed the dynamics of the potential microbial metabolisms accompanying wood degradation in the sea. Our work showed that wood is a good model for creating and manipulating chemosynthetic ecosystems in the laboratory, and attracting not only typical chemosynthetic microbes but also emblematic macrofaunal species.