Insight from Genomics on Biogeochemical Cycles in a Shallow-Sea Hydrothermal System

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Guang-Sin Lu and Jan Amend, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Shallow-sea hydrothermal ecosystems are dynamic, high-energy systems influenced by sunlight and geothermal activity. They provide accessible opportunities for investigating thermophilic microbial biogeochemical cycles. In this study, we report biogeochemical data from a shallow-sea hydrothermal system offshore Paleochori Bay, Milos, Greece, which is characterized by a central vent covered by white microbial mats with hydrothermally influenced sediments extending into nearby sea grass area. Geochemical analysis and deep sequencing provide high-resolution information on the geochemical patterns, microbial diversity and metabolic potential in a two-meter transect.

The venting fluid is elevated in temperature (~70oC), low in pH (~4), and enriched in reduced species. The geochemical pattern shows that the profile is affected by not only seawater dilution but also microbial regulation. The microbial community in the deepest section of vent core (10-12 cm) is largely dominated by thermophilic archaea, including a methanogen and a recently described Crenarcheon. Mid-core (6-8 cm), the microbial community in the venting area switches to the hydrogen utilizer Aquificae. Near the sediment-water interface, anaerobic Firmicutes and Actinobacteria dominate, both of which are commonly associated with subsurface and hydrothermal sites. All other samples are dominated by diverse Proteobacteria. The sulfate profile is strongly correlated with the population size of delta- and episilon-proteobactia. The dramatic decrease in concentrations of As and Mn in pore fluids as a function of distance from the vent suggests that in addition to seawater dilution, microorganisms are likely transforming these and other ions through a combination of detoxification and catabolism. In addition, high concentrations of dissolved Fe are only measurable in the shallow sea grass area, suggesting that iron-transforming microorganisms are controlling Fe mobility, and promoting biomineralization.

Taken together, these samples represent the effects of submarine venting on sediment microbial communities both vertically and horizontally in the predicted fluid flow path, and will provide a detailed investigation of genetic potential for biogeochemical cycling at Paleochori Bay.