Kelp deposition changes mineralization pathways and microbial communities in a sandy beach

Ingeborg.Bussmann [ at ]


We investigated the impact of kelp deposition on the geochemistry and microbial community composition of beach sands on the island of Helgoland (North Sea). The composition of the microbial community at a beach with regular kelp deposition appeared shaped by this regular input of organic material, as indicated by significantly higher proportions of aerobic degraders, fermenters, and sulfur cycling microorganisms. Rapid degradation of deposited kelp by this community leads to high levels of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon and nutrients, a lower pH and anoxia. Aerobic respiration, fermentation, Fe- and SO42- reduction and methanogenesis were strongly enhanced, with SO42- reduction being the main process in kelp degradation. SO42- reduction rates increased 20 to 25-fold upon addition of kelp. The main route of electrons from kelp to SO42- was not via CO and H2, as expected, but via organic fermentation products. O2 supply by the tides was not sufficient and reduced intermediates escaped from the sediment with tidal water retraction. The resulting extremely high levels of free sulfide (>10 mmol L-1) lead to abundant filamentous growth of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria largely composed of a rare O2-adapted Sulfurovum lacking the expected denitrification genes. Our results show that regular kelp deposition strongly enhances the thermodynamic disequilibrium in the beach sand habitat, leading to a dramatic enhancement of the sulfur cycle.

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DOI 10.1002/lno.11574

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van Erk, M. , Meier, D. V. , Ferdelman, T. G. , Harder, J. , Bussmann, I. and de Beer, D. (2020): Kelp deposition changes mineralization pathways and microbial communities in a sandy beach , Limnology and Oceanography . doi: 10.1002/lno.11574

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