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Diversity and the environmental drivers of spatial variation in Bacteria and micro-Eukarya communities from the Hawaiian anchialine ecosystem


Little is currently known regarding microbial community structure, and the environmental factors influencing it, within the anchialine ecosystem, defined as near-shore, land-locked water bodies with subsurface connections to the ocean and groundwater aquifer. The Hawaiian Archipelago is home to numerous anchialine habitats, with some on the islands of Maui and Hawaii harboring unique, laminated orange cyanobacterial–bacterial crusts that independently assembled in relatively young basalt fields. Here, benthic and water column bacterial and micro-eukaryotic communities from nine anchialine habitats on Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii were surveyed using high-throughput amplicon sequencing of the V6 (Bacteria-specific) and V9 (Eukarya-biased) hypervariable regions of the 16S- and 18S-rDNA genes, respectively. While benthic communities from habitats with cyanobacterial–bacterial crusts were more similar to each other than to ones lacking it on the same island, each habitat had distinct benthic and water column microbial communities. Analyses of the survey data in the context of environmental factors identified salinity, site, aquifer, and watershed as having the highest explanatory power for the observed variation in microbial diversity and community structure, with lesser drivers being annual rainfall, longitude, ammonium, and dissolved organic carbon. Our results epitomize the abiotic and biotic uniqueness characteristic of individual habitats comprising the Hawaiian anchialine ecosystem.

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We thank K. L. Kim and R. A. Kinzie III for generous help and support associated with fieldwork. P. M. Brannock and D. S. Waits graciously assisted with processing of sequence data. We are indebted to P.M. Brannock and M. Newman for providing helpful comments and feedback during the writing process. M. Ramsey assisted and provided comments and photos, regarding work at the WC site. Site access and collections were conducted under the following scientific permits: State of Hawaii Native Invertebrate Research Permit # FHM10-232 and MAKA: Kamehameha Schools Permit # 4803. The experiments conducted in this study comply with current laws of the United States and the State of Hawaii. Funding support for this work came from the National Science Foundation (DEB #0949855 to S.R.S). This represents contributions No. 162 and No. 67 to the Auburn University (AU) Marine Biology Program and Molette Biology Laboratory for Environmental and Climate Change Studies, respectively.


This study was funded by the National Science Foundation (DEB #0949855 to S.R.S).

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Fig. S1

Schematic of data generation showing processing of a microbial community samples from DNA extraction through sequencing of the Bacteria-specific V6 hypervariable region of the 16S-rDNA gene or the Eukarya-biased V9 hypervariable region of the 18S-rDNA gene from anchialine habitats surveyed in Summer 2010 on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (EPS 88 kb)

Fig. S2

Diversity estimates as number of observed OTUs, Chao1, Shannon diversity, and Inverse Simpson diversity for a the Bacteria-specific V6 hypervariable region of the 16S-rDNA gene b Eukarya-biased V9 hypervariable region of the 18S-rDNA gene. Samples are grouped by benthos and water column communities within sites from anchialine habitats surveyed in Summer 2010 on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (EPS 1688 kb)

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Hoffman, S.K., Seitz, K.W., Havird, J.C. et al. Diversity and the environmental drivers of spatial variation in Bacteria and micro-Eukarya communities from the Hawaiian anchialine ecosystem. Hydrobiologia 806, 265–282 (2018).

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  • Illumina amplicon sequencing
  • V6 hypervariable region 16S rDNA gene
  • V9 hypervariable region 18S rDNA gene
  • Microbial diversity