Global biogeography of the smallest plankton across ocean depths

Year: 2023 DOI: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adg9763

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Junger PC, Sarmento H, Giner CR, Mestre M, Sebastián M, Morán XAG, Arístegui J, Agustí S, Duarte CM, Acinas SG, Massana R, Gasol JM, Logares R. Global biogeography of the smallest plankton across ocean depths. Sci Adv. 2023 Nov 10;9(45):eadg9763. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adg9763. Epub 2023 Nov 8. PMID: 37939185; PMCID: PMC10631730.


Tiny ocean plankton (picoplankton) are fundamental for the functioning of the biosphere, but the ecological mechanisms shaping their biogeography were partially understood. Comprehending whether these microorganisms are structured by niche versus neutral processes is relevant in the context of global change. We investigate the ecological processes (selection, dispersal, and drift) structuring global-ocean picoplanktonic communities inhabiting the epipelagic (0 to 200 meters), mesopelagic (200 to 1000 meters), and bathypelagic (1000 to 4000 meters) zones. We found that selection decreased, while dispersal limitation increased with depth, possibly due to differences in habitat heterogeneity and dispersal barriers such as water masses and bottom topography. Picoplankton β-diversity positively correlated with environmental heterogeneity and water mass variability, but this relationship tended to be weaker for eukaryotes than for prokaryotes. Community patterns were more pronounced in the Mediterranean Sea, probably because of its cross-basin environmental heterogeneity and deep-water isolation. We conclude that different combinations of ecological mechanisms shape the biogeography of the ocean microbiome across depths.