Ph.D. defense - Jenny Booth

Jul 15 2018 10:30 AM - Jul 15 2018 11:30 AM

TITLE:  Ecology of the Mangrove Microbiome

ADVISOR:  Professor Daniele Daffonchio

DATE:  15th July

TIME:  10.30am

LOCATION: Auditorium (level 0) between buildings 2 and 3

ABSTRACT:  Plants and animals have evolved unique morpho-physiological adaptions to cope with the harsh and steep environmental gradients that characterise the mangrove ecosystem. However, the capacity of these two main components of the system to thrive, and the extraordinary productivity of mangrove forests in extreme conditions, has been overlooked in terms of the role of the microbiome. By combining approaches that included molecular microbial ecology, biogeochemical analyses, microscopy, raman spectroscopy and microsensor measurements, this thesis aimed to investigate the potential role of bacterial symbiosis in the adaptation of mangrove crabs to their environment and subsequently how these different animals modify their environment. Finally, with a field-based approach monitoring microbial communities, sediment metabolism and plant performance, the thesis aimed to investigate the plant/animal/bacterial dynamics in relation to seasonal environmental changes to contribute to understand the mangrove plant productivity paradox of high productivity under conditions of limited nutrients. 

Crab species were associated with distinct gill-bacteria communities, that produced carotenoids, according with their level of terrestrial adaptation. These carotenoids may be involved in protecting the gills from oxidative stress during air exposure. Microorganisms play an important role in adapting crabs on their evolutionary path to land and could contribute to the success of their colonization. At high population densities, of more than 50 individuals per square meter in some mangroves, these crabs deeply impact the functioning of the mangrove ecosystem, affecting microbial networks and nutrient recycling in the sediment, which may ameliorate conditions for plant growth. The microbiome is an understudied component of mangroves that lies at the basis of the functioning of these systems, influencing the success of the animal inhabitants (ecosystem engineers) that deeply modify the sediment microbiome, therefore influencing ecosystem functioning and resilience and, potentially, the success of the plants themselves (ecosystem architects).