, Volume 113, Issue 1–3, pp 119–136 | Cite as

Microbial biogeography of the North Sea during summer

  • Joost Brandsma
  • Joaquin Martínez Martínez
  • Hans A. Slagter
  • Claire Evans
  • Corina P. D. BrussaardEmail author


Micro-organisms are vital for the functioning of all food webs and are the major drivers of the global biogeochemical cycles. The microbial community compositions and physicochemical conditions of the different water masses in the North Sea, a biologically productive sea on the northwestern European continental shelf, were studied during two summer cruises, in order to provide detailed baseline data for this region and examine its microbial biogeography. For each cruise the stations were clustered according to their physicochemical characteristics and their microbial community composition. The largest cluster, which covered most of the central and northern North Sea, consisted of stations that were characterized by a thermally stratified water column and had low chlorophyll a autofluorescence and generally low microbial abundances. The second main cluster contained stations that were dominated by picoeukaryotes and showed the influence of influxes of North Atlantic water via the English Channel and south of the Shetland Islands. The third main cluster was formed by stations that were dominated by cyanobacteria and nanoeukaryotes in the reduced salinity Norwegian Coastal and Skagerrak waters, while the fourth cluster represented the German Bight, a region with strong riverine input, high nutrient concentrations, and consequently high heterotrophic bacterial and viral abundances. Despite the complex and dynamic hydrographic nature of the North Sea, the consistent distinctions in microbiology between these different hydrographic regions during both cruises illustrate the strong links between the microbial community and its environment, as well as the possibility to use microorganisms for long-term monitoring of environmental change.


North Sea Biogeography Microbial community Hydrographic regions Cluster Analysis Phytoplankton Bacteria Viruses 



We would like to thank the crew on RV Pelagia and the scientific crews of the MICROVIR (64PE217) and CARBOOCEAN (64PE294) cruises. We also thank the NIOZ-Marine Research Facilities (MRF), NIOZ-Marine Technology (MT) and NIOZ-Data Management (DM) for on-shore and on-board support. We are grateful to Harry Witte for his help with the statistical analyses. Financial support for this study was obtained from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Supplementary material

10533_2012_9783_MOESM1_ESM.docx (12 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 12 kb)
10533_2012_9783_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (576 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 577 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joost Brandsma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joaquin Martínez Martínez
    • 1
    • 3
  • Hans A. Slagter
    • 1
  • Claire Evans
    • 1
  • Corina P. D. Brussaard
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.NIOZ, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea ResearchDen Burg, TexelThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty of Medicine, Lipidomics Research GroupUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean SciencesEast BoothbayUSA

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