Comparative metagenomics of phytoplankton blooms after nutrient enrichment of oligotrophic marine waters

John K. Pearman, Laura Casas Castano, Craig Michell, Naroa Aldanondo, Nazia Mojib, Karie Ellen Holtermann, Ioannis Georgakakis, Joao Curdia, Susana Carvalho, Amr Gusti, Xabier Irigoien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Increasing anthropogenic pressures on the coastal marine environments impact these ecosystems via a variety of mechanisms including nutrient loading, leading to eutrophication and increases in algal blooms. Here, we use a metagenomics approach to assess the taxonomic and functional changes of the microbial community throughout a nutrient enriched mesocosm phytoplankton bloom. We tested four different nutrient treatments consisting of either nitrate and phosphate or nitrate, phosphate and silicate, administered on the first day or continuously for the first two weeks of the experiment. Our results show a shift in the taxonomic composition of the community over time that is dependent on the nutrient addition regime. Significant differences in the functional potential of the communities were detected, with an interaction between bloom period (pre-bloom, bloom and post-bloom) and nutrient treatment (p = 0.004). A sharp drop in functional similarity was observed in the first week in all treatments and after 20 days had not returned to pre-bloom levels. Changes within energy metabolism pathways showed a remarkable enrichment of the dissimilatory nitrate reduction pathway in the post-bloom period. Eukaryotic oxidative phosphorylation and photosynthetic antenna proteins were more abundant during the bloom, especially in the continuous treatment with silicate. Our results suggest that continuous (i.e. chronic) nutrient enrichment has a larger effect on the functioning of marine systems compared to a single (i.e acute) addition. A deep understanding of the functional and taxonomic shifts in the community during blooms is essential to reverse or mitigate human impacts on coastal environments.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages15
JournalMetabarcoding and Metagenomics
StatePublished - Apr 12 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-05-23
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank all those who helped during the deployment and running of the mesocosm experiment. Additionally, the authors would like to thank Prof. Jean-Philippe Croué for allowing the flow cytometry samples to be analysed using his equipment and Dr. Tony Merle for processing the samples. This research was supported by baseline funding provided by KAUST to Prof. Xabier Irigoien. The authors declare no conflicts of interest. We would like to thank the editor and three reviewers for their input into improving the manuscript.


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