Microbes on a bottle: substrate, season and geography influence community composition of microbes colonizing marine plastic debris

Carter, Dee A., Oberbeckmann, Sonja, Osborn, A. Mark and Duhaime, Melissa B. (2016) Microbes on a bottle: substrate, season and geography influence community composition of microbes colonizing marine plastic debris. PLOS ONE, 11 (8). e0159289. ISSN 1932-6203

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159289

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Plastic debris pervades in our oceans and freshwater systems and the potential ecosystem-level impacts of this anthropogenic litter require urgent evaluation. Microbes readily colonize aquatic plastic debris and members of these biofilm communities are speculated to include pathogenic, toxic, invasive or plastic degrading-species. The influence of plastic-colonizing microorganisms on the fate of plastic debris is largely unknown, as is the role of plastic in selecting for unique microbial communities. This work aimed to characterize microbial biofilm communities colonizing single-use poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) drinking bottles, determine their plastic-specificity in contrast with seawater and glass-colonizing communities, and identify seasonal and geographical influences on the communities. A substrate recruitment experiment was established in which PET bottles were deployed for 5–6 weeks at three stations in the North Sea in three different seasons. The structure and composition of the PET-colonizing bacterial/archaeal and eukaryotic communities varied with season and station. Abundant PET-colonizing taxa belonged to the phylum Bacteroidetes (e.g. Flavobacteriaceae, Cryomorphaceae, Saprospiraceae—all known to degrade complex carbon substrates) and diatoms (e.g. Coscinodiscophytina, Bacillariophytina). The PET-colonizing microbial communities differed significantly from free-living communities, but from particle-associated (>3 μm) communities or those inhabiting glass substrates. These data suggest that microbial community assembly on plastics is driven by conventional marine biofilm processes, with the plastic surface serving as raft for attachment, rather than selecting for recruitment of plastic-specific microbial colonizers. A small proportion of taxa, notably, members of the Cryomorphaceae and Alcanivoraceae, were significantly discriminant of PET but not glass surfaces, conjuring the possibility that these groups may directly interact with the PET substrate. Future research is required to investigate microscale functional interactions at the plastic surface.

Keywords:Plastic waste, JCOpen
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:27629
Deposited On:05 Jun 2017 09:52

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