We have a new article published in Limnology and Oceanography titled “Deep-sea wooden shipwrecks influence sediment microbiome diversity”. The paper, by Dr. Justyna Hampel and colleagues, investigated the influence of two historic wooden shipwrecks, from the Microbial Stowaways project, on sediment microbiomes in the deep sea.
Historic shipwrecks function as habitats for benthic organisms by providing food, refuge, and structure. They also form islands of biodiversity on the seabed, shaping microbial ecology and ecosystem processes. This study examined two wooden deep-sea shipwrecks at 525 and 1800 m water depth and probed their influence on sediment microbiomes and geochemistry. Microbiomes were investigated with 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing along 60 m transects extending in four directions from the hulls of the shipwrecks. Distance from shipwrecks and sediment depth both shaped microbiome structure. Archaeal alpha diversity was significantly and positively correlated with proximity to the deeper shipwreck while bacterial diversity was not to either. Archaeal community structure differed at both sites; the deeper site had a higher proportion of Bathyarchaeia and Lokiarchaeia proximate to shipwreck compared to the shallow location. Major bacterial communities were consistent at both sites, however, at the deeper site had higher abundance of Bacteroidetes, Chloroflexi, Desulfofarculales, and Desulfobacteriales. Core microbiome and differential abundance analyses revealed unique taxa nearest the shipwrecks compared to the surrounding seabed including organoheterotrophs, and cellulolytic and sulfur cycling taxa. Sediment carbon content influenced microbiome structure near the shipwrecks (5–10 m). We show that shipwrecks have a distinct sediment microbiome and form unique habitat patches on seabed, resembling those surrounding organic falls. The shipwreck influence was more pronounced at the deeper site, further from terrestrial influences, signaling shipwrecks may be a significant source of organic matter in far-shore oligotrophic settings.
The full paper is available online now! And stay tuned, the next paper from the Microbial Stowaways project is coming soon!