A protective coat of microorganisms on macroalgae: inhibitory effects of bacterial biofilms and epibiotic microbial assemblages on barnacle attachment


Correspondence: Stephanie B. Stratil, Department of Marine Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, GEOMAR, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany. Tel.: +49 600431 4527; fax: +49 600431 1671; e-mail: sstratil@geomar.de


Effects of epibiotic bacteria associated with macroalgae on barnacle larval attachment were investigated. Eight bacterial isolates obtained from samples of three macroalga species were cultured as monospecies bacterial films and tested for their activity against barnacle (Amphibalanus improvisus) attachment in field experiments (Western Baltic Sea). Furthermore, natural biofilm communities associated with the surface of the local brown alga, Fucus vesiculosus, which were exposed to different temperatures (5, 15 and 20 °C), were harvested and subsequently tested. Generally, monospecies bacterial biofilms, as well as natural microbial assemblages, inhibited barnacle attachment by 20–67%. denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fingerprints showed that temperature treatment shifted the bacterial community composition and weakened the repellent effects at 20 °C. Repellent effects were absent when settlement pressure of cyprids was high. Nonviable bacteria tended to repel cyprids when compared to the unfilmed surfaces. We conclude that biofilms can have a repellent effect benefiting the host by preventing heavy fouling on its surface. However, severe settlement pressure, as well as stressful temperature, may reduce the protective effects of the alga's biofilm. Our results add to the notion that the performance of F. vesiculosus may be reduced by multiple stressors in the course of global warming.