Organic and inorganic nutrients modulate taxonomic diversity and trophic strategies of small eukaryotes in oligotrophic oceans

Naomi Villiot, Amy E. Maas, Alex J. Poulton, Leocadio Blanco-Bercial

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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As the oligotrophic gyres expand due to global warming, exacerbating resource limitation impacts on primary producers, predicting changes to microbial assemblages and productivity requires knowledge of the community response to nutrient availability. This study examines how organic and inorganic nutrients influence the taxonomic and trophic composition (18S metabarcoding) of small eukaryotic plankton communities (< 200 µm) within the euphotic zone of the oligotrophic Sargasso Sea. The study was conducted by means of field sampling of natural microbial communities and laboratory incubation of these communities under different nutrient regimes. Dissimilarity in community composition increased along a depth gradient, with a homogeneous protist community within the mixed layer and distinct microbial assemblages at different depths below the deep chlorophyll maximum. A nutrient enrichment assay revealed the potential of natural microbial communities to rapidly shift in composition in response to nutrient addition. Results highlighted the importance of inorganic phosphorus availability, largely understudied compared to nitrogen, in constraining microbial diversity. Dissolved organic matter addition led to a loss of diversity, benefiting a limited number of phagotrophic and mixotrophic taxa. Nutrient history of the community sets the physiological responsiveness of the eukaryotic community to changing nutrient regimes and needs to be considered in future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberxtac029
JournalFEMS Microbes
Early online date7 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • biodiversity
  • dissolved inorganic phosphorus
  • marine protists
  • metabarcoding
  • nutrient competition
  • trophic strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology


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