Oxygen loss from seagrass roots coincides with colonisation of sulphide-oxidising cable bacteria and reduces sulphide stress

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Seagrasses thrive in anoxic sediments where sulphide can accumulate to phytotoxic levels. So how do seagrasses persist in this environment? Here, we propose that radial oxygen loss (ROL) from actively growing root tips protects seagrasses from sulphide intrusion not only by abiotically oxidising sulphides in the rhizosphere of young roots, but also by influencing the abundance and spatial distribution of sulphate-reducing and sulphide-oxidising bacteria. We used a novel multifaceted approach combining imaging techniques (confocal fluorescence in situ hybridisation, oxygen planar optodes, and sulphide diffusive gradients in thin films) with microbial community profiling to build a complete picture of the microenvironment of growing roots of the seagrasses Halophila ovalis and Zostera muelleri. ROL was restricted to young root tips, indicating that seagrasses will have limited ability to influence sulphide oxidation in bulk sediments. On the microscale, however, ROL corresponded with decreased abundance of potential sulphate-reducing bacteria and decreased sulphide concentrations in the rhizosphere surrounding young roots. Furthermore, roots leaking oxygen had a higher abundance of sulphide-oxidising cable bacteria; which is the first direct observation of these bacteria on seagrass roots. Thus, ROL may enhance both abiotic and bacterial sulphide oxidation and restrict bacterial sulphide production around vulnerable roots, thereby helping seagrasses to colonise sulphide-rich anoxic sediments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalISME Journal
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Oct 2018


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