Stability and host specificity in the seaweed microbiome
Marine macroalgae are foundation species that are colonized by diverse and variable microbial communities. Microbes influence macroalgal health and ecosystem functioning. Manipulating the macroalgal microbiome may enhance the kelp cultivation for industrial and restoration purposes by modulating growth or enhancing resilience to environmental stressors. Yet, it is unclear how to efficiently design and implement strategies for microbiome manipulation. One approach is to focus on the core microbes (those that are consistently associated with a macroalgal host) as key targets because they are hypothesized to be more likely to influence host biology. However, the high variability and functional redundancy observed in the macroalgal microbiome mean that it is not clear how to define the core or whether such a concept is useful in this system. I will discuss work assessing the stability of the macroalgal microbiome over time at the individual and population level and show that although no bacteria are always present on our focal macroalgae, many are consistently associated across time and space.
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