Bioturbation Intensity Modifies the Sediment Microbiome and Biochemistry and Supports Plant Growth in an Arid Mangrove System

Marco Fusi, Jenny Marie Booth, Ramona Marasco, Giuseppe Merlino, Neus Garcias-Bonet, Alan Barozzi, Elisa Garuglieri, Tumeka Mbobo, Karen Diele, Carlos M. Duarte, Daniele Daffonchio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In intertidal systems, the type and role of interactions among sediment microorganisms, animals, plants and abiotic factors are complex and not well understood. Such interactions are known to promote nutrient provision and cycling, and their dynamics and relationships may be of particular importance in arid microtidal systems characterized by minimal nutrient input. Focusing on an arid mangrove ecosystem on the central Red Sea coast, we investigated the effect of crab bioturbation intensity (comparing natural and manipulated high levels of bioturbation intensity) on biogeochemistry and bacterial communities of mangrove sediments, and on growth performance of Avicennia marina, over a period of 16 months. Along with pronounced seasonal patterns with harsh summer conditions, in which high sediment salinity, sulfate and temperature, and absence of tidal flooding occur, sediment bacterial diversity and composition, sediment physicochemical conditions, and plant performance were significantly affected by crab bioturbation intensity. For instance, bioturbation intensity influenced components of nitrogen, carbon, and phosphate cycling, bacterial relative abundance (i.e., Bacteroidia, Proteobacteria and Rhodothermi) and their predicted functionality (i.e., chemoheterotrophy), likely resulting from enhanced metabolic activity of aerobic bacteria. The complex interactions among bacteria, animals, and sediment chemistry in this arid mangrove positively impact plant growth. We show that a comprehensive approach targeting multiple biological levels provides useful information on the ecological status of mangrove forests.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-03
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): CRG-7-3739, REI/1/4483-01-01
Acknowledgements: D.D. and C.M.D. acknowledge the financial support of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) through their respective baseline research funds and the Circular Carbon Economy initiative (grant no. REI/1/4483-01-01). D.D. and K.D. acknowledge the Competitive Research Grant (CRG-7-3739) to D.D., “The role of the bacterial symbiome at the gill-water (air) interface in the evolution toward terrestrialisation (Microlanding),” 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2022. We are also thankful to Sadaf Umer for invaluable help and to Gregoire Michoud and Riccardo Soldan for assistance during field sampling. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for useful comments on the first version of the manuscript.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Genetics
  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Cell Biology


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