< Marine Matters issue 18 available now
30.06.2014 13:27 Age: 3 yrs
Category: ANMN

Microbial sampling at IMOS National Reference Stations to be expanded

In 2012 IMOS established a partnership with the Australian Marine Microbial Biodiversity Initiative (AMMBI) to run a one-year pilot program to collect microbial samples as part of the regular monthly sampling at three east coast IMOS National Reference Station (NRS) sites.


Temporal variation in the relative abundance of Pelagibacter (top) and Roseovarius (bottom) by depth. These Operational Taxonomic Unit (OTU) diagrams are examples of phylotypes that are homogenously and heterogeneously distributed across the three sampling stations, respectively. (click on images to enlarge)

With the pilot study successfully assimilating the extra sampling into the monthly IMOS program, AMMBI now aims to establish a sustained marine microbial sampling program at all seven of the NRS sites over the next year (North Stradbroke Island, Port Hacking, Maria Island, Rottnest Island, Darwin, Yongala and Kangaroo Island).

AMMBI aims to build a marine microbial biodiversity map of Australia that could then be integrated with the physical and biogeochemical data already collected at the NRS sites by IMOS, macrobial biodiversity and patterns of human activity.

While less conspicuous than marine macrofauna, the major biotic players in controlling the function of marine environments are microorganisms. Microbes comprise up to 90% of the total ocean biomass, are the foundation of the marine food-web, and the engine-room of the ocean’s major chemical cycles. The composition and biogeochemical functionality of these microbial assemblages underpins the ecology of marine ecosystems and mediates the ocean-atmosphere exchange of climatically important gases.

Despite recent efforts, the majority of microbial biodiversity in marine systems remains largely uncharacterised. Consequently we do not understand the full potential of our oceans and estuaries, their health, or their resilience. This lack of marine microbial biodiversity knowledge has largely been due to the difficulties in obtaining meaningful data at appropriate scales using traditional microbiological techniques. Metagenomic analysis of marine samples now provides an opportunity to undertake large-scale, spatially-explicit analyses to quantify and map patterns of microbial biodiversity.

The samples from the pilot study have provided preliminary metagenomic data that demonstrates varied spatial and temporal patterns between bacterial taxa. 

The AMMBI program is led by Dr Lev Bodrossy at CSIRO and Dr Mark Brown at UNSW. For further information please contact Lev.Bodrossy(at)csiro.au.