Microbial assemblages on a cold-water coral mound at the SE Rockall Bank (NE Atlantic): interactions with hydrography and topography
Abstract. This study characterizes the microbial community composition over Haas Mound, one of the most prominent cold-water coral mounds of the Logachev Mound province (Rockall Bank, NE Atlantic). We outline patterns of distribution vertically – from the seafloor to the water column – and laterally – across the mound – and couple these to mound topography and hydrography. Samples of water, sediment and Lophelia pertusa were collected in 2012 and 2013 from locations that were chosen based on high definition video surveys. Temperature and current measurements were obtained at two sites at the summit and foot of Haas Mound to study near-bed hydrodynamic conditions. Overlaying water was collected from depths of 400 m as well as 5 and 10 m above the bottom using a CTD/Rosette system. Near-bottom water, sediment and L. pertusa mucus and skeleton samples were obtained with a box corer. Of all these biotopes, Roche GS-FLX amplicon sequencing targeting both Bacteria and Archaea was carried out, augmenting our understanding of deep sea microbial consortia. The pattern of similarities between samples, visualized by multi-dimensional scaling (MDS), indicates a strong link between the distribution of microbes and the specific biotopes. The microbial operational taxonomic unit (OTU) diversity was the highest in near-bottom water, which was sampled in the coral framework. For the first time, Thaumarchaeota marine group I (MGI) were found in L. pertusa mucus; Endozoicomonas was detected in skeleton, mucus and near-bottom water, whereas Mycoplasma was only detected in skeleton and near-bottom water, however not in mucus. Analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) indicates that overlaying water is well-mixed at 400 m depth but less so at 5 and 10 m above the bottom, where the composition of microbial communities differed significantly between summit, slope and off-mound. At all locations, the near-bottom water differed significantly from water at 5 m above the bottom, illustrating that the near-bottom water in between the coral framework represents a separate microbial habitat. Furthermore, the observed spatial heterogeneity in microbial communities is discussed in relation to environmental conditions.