The effect of bio-irrigation by the polychaete Lanice conchilega on active denitrifiers: Distribution, diversity and composition of nosZ gene

Maryam Yazdani Foshtomi, Frederik Leliaert, Sofie Derycke, Anne Willems, Magda Vincx, Jan Vanaverbeke

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    The presence of large densities of the piston-pumping polychaete Lanice conchilega can have important consequences for the functioning of marine sediments. It is considered both an allogenic and an autogenic ecosystem engineer, affecting spatial and temporal biogeochemical gradients (oxygen concentrations, oxygen penetration depth and nutrient concentrations) and physical properties (grain size) of marine sediments, which could affect functional properties of sediment-inhabiting microbial communities. Here we investigated whether density-dependent effects of L. conchilega affected horizontal (m-scale) and vertical (cm-scale) patterns in the distribution, diversity and composition of the typical nosZgene in the active denitrifying organisms. This gene plays a major role in N2O reduction in coastal ecosystems as the last step completing the denitrification pathway. We showed that both vertical and horizontal composition and richness of nosZgene were indeed significantly affected when large densities of the bio-irrigator were present. This could be directly related to allogenic ecosystem engineering effects on the environment, reflected in increased oxygen penetration depth and oxygen concentrations in the upper cm of the sediment in high densities of L. conchilega. A higher diversity (Shannon diversity and inverse Simpson) of nosZobserved in patches with high L. conchilega densities (3,185-3,440 ind. m(-2)) at deeper sediment layers could suggest a downward transport of NO3- to deeper layers resulting from bio-irrigation as well. Hence, our results show the effect of L. conchilega bio-irrigation activity on denitrifying organisms in L. conchilega reefs.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPloS one
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 6-Feb-2018

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