Wind and sunlight shape microbial diversity in surface waters of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

Jessica A. Bryant, Frank O. Aylward, John M. Eppley, David M. Karl, Matthew J. Church, Edward F. DeLong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Few microbial time-series studies have been conducted in open ocean habitats having low seasonal variability such as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG), where surface waters experience comparatively mild seasonal variation. To better describe microbial seasonal variability in this habitat, we analyzed rRNA amplicon and shotgun metagenomic data over two years at the Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station ALOHA. We postulated that this relatively stable habitat might reveal different environmental factors that influence planktonic microbial community diversity than those previously observed in more seasonally dynamic habitats. Unexpectedly, the data showed that microbial diversity at 25 m was positively correlated with average wind speed 3 to 10 days prior to sampling. In addition, microbial community composition at 25 m exhibited significant correlations with solar irradiance. Many bacterial groups whose relative abundances varied with solar radiation corresponded to taxa known to exhibit strong seasonality in other oceanic regions. Network co-correlation analysis of 25 m communities showed seasonal transitions in composition, and distinct successional cohorts of co-occurring phylogenetic groups. Similar network analyses of metagenomic data also indicated distinct seasonality in genes originating from cyanophage, and several bacterial clades including SAR116 and SAR324. At 500 m, microbial community diversity and composition did not vary significantly with any measured environmental parameters. The minimal seasonal variability in the NPSG facilitated detection of more subtle environmental influences, such as episodic wind variation, on surface water microbial diversity. Community composition in NPSG surface waters varied in response to solar irradiance, but less dramatically than reported in other ocean provinces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1308-1322
Number of pages15
JournalISME Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


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