By Cheryl Dybas and Lori Lennon
Could the future of a salt marsh be hidden in the health of its microbes? Scientists say yes. …
In a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Jennifer Bowen and her Northeastern University colleague Patrick Kearns, along with researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, set out to discover what would happen to microbes in salt marshes if specific nutrients were added to the environment — through urbanization and climate change, for example.
Adding nutrients like nitrogen produced no change in the types of bacteria present in the salt marsh — at least, temporarily. But over time, a large number of the microbes became dormant.
“It’s kind of like a bear going into hibernation,” Bowen said. “These dormant bacteria are in a low metabolic state. They just bide their time until environmental conditions return that are suitable for them.”
When the microbes go dormant, they don’t contribute to the critical ecosystem services that make salt marshes important. Read more …
Note: Jennifer Bowen is a former postdoctoral fellow at the MBL Ecosystems Center. Her research was based on a marine ecosystem experiment led by co-author and MBL scientist Linda Deegan at the Plum Island Long Term Ecological Research site in northeastern Massachusetts.