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  1. Abstract

    Cable bacteria that are capable of transporting electrons on centimeter scales have been found in a variety of sediment types, where their activity can strongly influence diagenetic reactions and elemental cycling. In this study, the patterns of spatial and temporal colonization of surficial sediment by cable bacteria were revealed in two-dimensions by planar pH and H2S optical sensors for the first time. The characteristic sediment surface pH maximum zones begin to develop from isolated micro-regions and spread horizontally within 5 days, with lateral spreading rates from 0.3 to ~ 1.2 cm day−1. Electrogenic anodic zones in the anoxic sediments are characterized by low pH, and the coupled pH minima also expand with time. H2S heterogeneities in accordance with electrogenic colonization are also observed. Cable bacteria cell abundance in oxic surface sediment (0–0.25 cm) kept almost constant during the colonization period; however, subsurface cell abundance apparently increased as electrogenic activity expanded across the entire surface. Changes in cell abundance are consistent with filament coiling and growth in the anodic zone (i.e., cathodic snorkels). The spreading mechanism for the sediment pH–H2S fingerprints and the cable bacteria abundance dynamics suggest that once favorable microenvironments are established, filamentous cable bacteria aggregate or locally activate electrogenic metabolism. Different development dynamicsmore »in otherwise similar sediment suggests that the accessibility of reductant (e.g., dissolved phase sulfide) is critical in controlling the growth of cable bacteria.

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  2. Benthic animals profoundly influence the cycling and storage of carbon and other elements in marine systems, particularly in coastal sediments. Recent climate change has altered the distribution and abundance of many seafloor taxa and modified the vertical exchange of materials between ocean and sediment layers. Here, we examine how climate change could alter animal-mediated biogeochemical cycling in ocean sediments. The fossil record shows repeated major responses from the benthos during mass extinctions and global carbon perturbations, including reduced diversity, dominance of simple trace fossils, decreased burrow size and bioturbation intensity, and nonrandom extinction of trophic groups. The broad dispersal capacity of many extant benthic species facilitates poleward shifts corresponding to their environmental niche as overlying water warms. Evidence suggests that locally persistent populations will likely respond to environmental shifts through either failure to respond or genetic adaptation rather than via phenotypic plasticity. Regional and global ocean models insufficiently integrate changes in benthic biological activity and their feedbacks on sedimentary biogeochemical processes. The emergence of bioturbation, ventilation, and seafloor-habitat maps and progress in our mechanistic understanding of organism–sediment interactions enable incorporation of potential effects of climate change on benthic macrofaunal mediation of elemental cycles into regional and global ocean biogeochemical models.
  3. Electrogenic cable bacteria can couple spatially separated redox reaction zones in marine sediments using multicellular filaments as electron conductors. Reported as generally absent from disturbed sediments, we have found subsurface cable aggregations associated with tubes of the parchment worm Chaetopterus variopedatus in otherwise intensely bioturbated deposits. Cable bacteria tap into tubes, which act as oxygenated conduits, creating a three-dimensional conducting network extending decimeters into sulfidic deposits. By elevating pH, promoting Mn, Fe-oxide precipitation in tube linings, and depleting S around tubes, they enhance tube preservation and favorable biogeochemical conditions within the tube. The presence of disseminated filaments a few cells in length away from oxygenated interfaces and the reported ability of cable bacteria to use a range of redox reaction couples suggest that these microbes are ubiquitous facultative opportunists and that long filaments are an end-member morphological adaptation to relatively stable redox domains.