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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. Uncovering which biogeochemical processes have a critical role controlling dissolved organic matter (DOM) compositional changes in complex estuarine environments remains a challenge. In this context, the aim of this study is to characterize the dominant patterns of variability modifying the DOM composition in an estuary off the Southeastern U.S. We collected water samples during three seasons (July and October 2014 and April 2015) at both high and low tides and conducted short- (1 day) and long-term (60 days) dark incubations. Samples were analyzed for bulk DOC concentration, and optical (CDOM) and molecular (FT-ICR MS) compositions and bacterial cells were collected for metatranscriptomics. Results show that the dominant pattern of variability in DOM composition occurs at seasonal scales, likely associated with the seasonality of river discharge. After seasonal variations, long-term biodegradation was found to be comparatively more important in the fall, while tidal variability was the second most important factor correlated to DOM composition in spring, when the freshwater content in the estuary was high. Over shorter time scales, however, the influence of microbial processing was small. Microbial data revealed a similar pattern, with variability in gene expression occurring primarily at the seasonal scale and tidal influence being of secondary importance.more »Our analyses suggest that future changes in the seasonal delivery of freshwater to this system have the potential to significantly impact DOM composition. Changes in residence time may also be important, helping control the relative contribution of tides and long-term biodegradation to DOM compositional changes in the estuary.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 8, 2022
  3. Abstract Invasive consumers can cause extensive ecological damage to native communities but effects on ecosystem resilience are less understood. Here, we use drone surveys, manipulative experiments, and mathematical models to show how feral hogs reduce resilience in southeastern US salt marshes by dismantling an essential marsh cordgrass-ribbed mussel mutualism. Mussels usually double plant growth and enhance marsh resilience to extreme drought but, when hogs invade, switch from being essential for plant survival to a liability; hogs selectively forage in mussel-rich areas leading to a 50% reduction in plant biomass and slower post-drought recovery rate. Hogs increase habitat fragmentation across landscapes by maintaining large, disturbed areas through trampling of cordgrass during targeted mussel consumption. Experiments and climate-disturbance recovery models show trampling alone slows marsh recovery by 3x while focused mussel predation creates marshes that may never recover from large-scale disturbances without hog eradication. Our work highlights that an invasive consumer can reshape ecosystems not just via competition and predation, but by disrupting key, positive species interactions that underlie resilience to climatic disturbances.
  4. Abstract Marine Group II Euryarchaeota ( Candidatus Poseidoniales), abundant but yet-uncultivated members of marine microbial communities, are thought to be (photo)heterotrophs that metabolize dissolved organic matter (DOM), such as lipids and peptides. However, little is known about their transcriptional activity. We mapped reads from a metatranscriptomic time series collected at Sapelo Island (GA, USA) to metagenome-assembled genomes to determine the diversity of transcriptionally active Ca . Poseidoniales. Summer metatranscriptomes had the highest abundance of Ca . Poseidoniales transcripts, mostly from the O1 and O3 genera within Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae (MGIIb). In contrast, transcripts from fall and winter samples were predominantly from Ca . Poseidoniaceae (MGIIa). Genes encoding proteorhodopsin, membrane-bound pyrophosphatase, peptidase/proteases, and part of the ß-oxidation pathway were highly transcribed across abundant genera. Highly transcribed genes specific to Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae included xanthine/uracil permease and receptors for amino acid transporters. Enrichment of Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae transcript reads related to protein/peptide, nucleic acid, and amino acid transport and metabolism, as well as transcript depletion during dark incubations, provided further evidence of heterotrophic metabolism. Quantitative PCR analysis of South Atlantic Bight samples indicated consistently abundant Ca . Poseidoniales in nearshore and inshore waters. Together, our data suggest that Ca . Thalassarchaeaceae aremore »important photoheterotrophs potentially linking DOM and nitrogen cycling in coastal waters.« less
  5. Abstract Despite international regulation, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are routinely detected at levels threatening human and environmental health. While previous research has emphasized trophic transfer as the principle pathway for PCB accumulation, our study reveals the critical role that non-trophic interactions can play in controlling PCB bioavailability and biomagnification. In a 5-month field experiment manipulating saltmarsh macro-invertebrates, we show that suspension-feeding mussels increase concentrations of total PCBs and toxic dioxin-like coplanars by 11- and 7.5-fold in sediment and 10.5- and 9-fold in cordgrass-grazing crabs relative to no-mussel controls, but do not affect PCB bioaccumulation in algae-grazing crabs. PCB homolog composition and corroborative dietary analyses demonstrate that mussels, as ecosystem engineers, amplify sediment contamination and PCB exposure for this burrowing marsh crab through non-trophic mechanisms. We conclude that these ecosystem engineering activities and other non-trophic interactions may have cascading effects on trophic biomagnification pathways, and therefore exert strong bottom-up control on PCB biomagnification up this coastal food web.