Seasonal development of a tidal mixing front drives shifts in community structure and diversity of bacterioplankton

Nathan G. King*, Sophie B. Wilmes, Samuel S. Browett, Amy Healey, Allan D. McDevitt, Niall J. McKeown, Ronan Roche, Ilze Skujina, Dan A. Smale, Jamie M. Thorpe, Shelagh Malham

*Corresponding author for this work

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Bacterioplankton underpin biogeochemical cycles and an improved understanding of the patterns and drivers of variability in their distribution is needed to determine their wider functioning and importance. Sharp environmental gradients and dispersal barriers associated with ocean fronts are emerging as key determinants of bacterioplankton biodiversity patterns. We examined how the development of the Celtic Sea Front (CF), a tidal mixing front on the Northwest European Shelf affects bacterioplankton communities. We performed 16S‐rRNA metabarcoding on 60 seawater samples collected from three depths (surface, 20 m and seafloor), across two research cruises (May and September 2018), encompassing the intra‐annual range of the CF intensity. Communities above the thermocline of stratified frontal waters were clearly differentiated and less diverse than those below the thermocline and communities in the well‐mixed waters of the Irish Sea. This effect was much more pronounced in September, when the CF was at its peak intensity. The stratified zone likely represents a stressful environment for bacterioplankton due to a combination of high temperatures and low nutrients, which fewer taxa can tolerate. Much of the observed variation was driven by Synechococcus spp. (cyanobacteria), which were more abundant within the stratified zone and are known to thrive in warm oligotrophic waters. Synechococcus spp. are key contributors to global primary productivity and carbon cycling and, as such, variability driven by the CF is likely to influence regional biogeochemical processes. However, further studies are required to explicitly link shifts in community structure to function and quantify their wider importance to pelagic ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5201-5210
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number18
Early online date09 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 05 Sept 2023


  • 16S sequencing
  • Celtic Sea front
  • microbial biogeography
  • microbiome
  • Shallow Sea front
  • Ecosystem
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
  • Seawater/microbiology
  • Seasons
  • Biodiversity
  • Aquatic Organisms


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