Disturbances, here defined as events that directly alter microbial community composition, are commonly studied in host-associated and engineered systems. In spite of global change both altering environmental averages and increasing extreme events, there has been relatively little research into the causes, persistence and population-level impacts of disturbance in the dynamic coastal ocean. Here, we utilize 3 years of observations from a coastal time series to identify disturbances based on the largest week-over-week changes in the microbiome (i.e. identifying disturbance as events that alter the community composition). In general, these microbiome disturbances were not clearly linked to specific environmental factors and responsive taxa largely differed, aside from SAR11, which generally declined. However, several disturbance metagenomes identified increased phage-associated genes, suggesting that unexplained community shifts might be caused by increased mortality. Furthermore, a category 1 hurricane, the only event that would likely be classified a priori as an environmental disturbance, was not an outlier in microbiome composition, but did enhance a bloom in seasonally abundant phytoplankton. Thus, as extreme environmental changes intensify, assumptions of what constitutes a disturbance should be re-examined in the context of ecological history and microbiome responses.
Gronniger JL, Wang Z, Brandt GR, Ward CS, Tsementzi D, Mu H, Gu J, Johnson ZI, Konstantinidis KT, Hunt DE (2022). Rapid changes in coastal ocean microbiomes uncoupled with shifts in environmental variables. Environmental Microbiology DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.16086