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Summary

Barrier zones between oxic and anoxic water masses (redoxclines) host highly active prokaryotic communities with important roles in biogeochemical cycling. In Baltic Sea pelagic redoxclines, Epsilonproteobacteria of the genus Sulfurimonas (subgroup GD17) have been shown to dominate chemoautotrophic denitrification. However, little is known on the loss processes affecting this prokaryotic group. In the present study, the protist grazing impact on the Sulfurimonas subgroup GD17 was determined for suboxic and oxygen/hydrogen sulphide interface depths of Baltic Sea redoxclines, using predator exclusion assays and bacterial amendment with the cultured representative ‘Sulfurimonas gotlandica’ strain GD1. Additionally, the principal bacterivores were identified by RNA-Stable Isotope Probing (RNA-SIP). The natural Sulfurimonas subgroup GD17 population grew strongly under oxygen/hydrogen sulphide interface conditions (doubling time: 1–1.5 days), but protist grazing could consume the complete new cell production per day. In suboxic samples, little or no growth of Sulfurimonas subgroup GD17 was observed. RNA-SIP identified five active grazers, belonging to typical redoxcline ciliates (Oligohymenophorea, Prostomatea) and globally widespread marine flagellate groups (MAST-4, Chrysophyta, Cercozoa). Overall, we demonstrate for the first time that protist grazing can control the growth, and potentially the vertical distribution, of a chemolithoautotrophic key-player of oxic/anoxic interfaces.