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  • Breaking New Ground

    By Rachelle Jensen October 22nd, 2015 0 Comments Categories : latest_news
    Indian Ocean Map

    We Discover Distinct Plankton Microbiome Communities Reside Across the Indian Ocean, Including Chagos Archipelago

    Stemming from our pioneering work during our Indian Ocean Concept Cruise, we discovered that the community of microorganisms that exists within the pristine atoll of Salomon Island Atoll are unique to communities just outside the atoll, which in turn, are different to the rest of the Indian Ocean.

    Published in Nature Scientific Reports, we employed the citizen oceanography approach of using the same tools and protocols currently adapted to private sailboats. We also established the first ocean health baseline across the Indian Ocean as a whole.

    From this work, we discovered that the Indian Ocean can be partitioned into distinct plankton community groups: The Bay of Bengal Region, Salomon Atoll Inside, Salomon Atoll Outside, Mid Southern Ocean and the Southern Ocean.

    This biogeographic distribution can be explained by the different ratios of cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae, known photosynthesizers. The patterns can also be related to environmental conditions such as temperature and nutrients.

    Across this >4000km transect, the distinct microbiome communities suggest shifts in ecological function, disrupting the conventionally held view that the marine microbiome is largely uniform across large swaths of ocean ecosystems.

    “This work, for the first time, establishes a baseline of the microbial diversity of this under explored ocean, which is critical to assessing shifts in ocean health in a changing world,” said Thomas Jeffries, first author of the paper. “Unprecedented access to a pristine coral atoll has allowed us to shed new light on the role of microorganisms in these critically threatened habitats.”

    While much attention is placed on macro-fauna in our seas (mammals and fish, for example), it is the tiny, marine microbes that underpin the foundation of the food web. Collectively known as the marine microbiome, they are the most abundant organisms in the oceans, and they are perhaps the most vulnerable in a changing global ocean.

    “Oceans serve as the primary respiratory and nutrient cycling machine for the entire planet. If the oceans are in peril, mankind is in peril. With world population on the rise, now more than ever, understanding global ocean microbiome health is of urgent priority” Federico Lauro said, Director of Indigo V Expeditions.

    About the Indigo V Expeditions Indian Ocean Concept Cruise:

    Over six months, scientists aboard S/Y Indigo V sailed 6,500 nautical miles across the Indian Ocean, from Cape Town to Singapore. During the concept cruise, led by Federico Lauro, pioneered citizen oceanography and established the world’s first Indian Ocean health baseline.

    The research was supported by kind donations from the ithree Institute (University of Technology Sydney, Australia), the Costerton Biofilm Center (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), SCELSCE (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), BABS (University of New South Wales, Australia), the Australian Research Council, the Desert Research Institute (Nevada, USA), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the University of Victoria (Canada), and Macquarie University.


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