Busch, Kathrin; Beazley, Lindsay; Kenchington, Ellen; Whoriskey, Frederick; Slaby, Beate M; Hentschel, Ute (2020). Conservation Genetics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-020-01305-2.
Establishment of adequate conservation areas represents a challenging but crucial task in the conservation of genetic diversity and biological variability. Anthropogenic pressures on marine ecosystems and organisms are steadily increasing. Whether and to what extent these pressures influence marine genetic biodiversity is only starting to be revealed. Using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, we analysed the microbial community structure of 33 individuals of the habitat-forming glass sponge Vazella pourtalesii, as well as reference seawater, sediment, and biofilm samples. We assessed how two anthropogenic impacts, i.e. habitat destruction by trawling and artificial substrate provision (moorings made of composite plastic), correspond with in situ V. pourtalesii microbiome variability. In addition, we evaluated the role of two bottom fishery closures in preserving sponge-associated microbial diversity on the Scotian Shelf, Canada. Our results illustrate that V. pourtalesii sponges collected from protected sites within fishery closures contained distinct and taxonomically largely novel microbial communities. At the trawled site we recorded significant quantitative differences in distinct microbial phyla, such as a reduction in Nitrospinae in the four sponges from this site and the environmental references. Individuals of V. pourtalesii growing on the mooring were significantly enriched in Bacteroidetes, Verrucomicrobia and Cyanobacteria in comparison to sponge individuals growing on the natural seabed. Due to a concomitant enrichment of these taxa in the mooring biofilm, we propose that biofilms on artificial substrates may ‘prime’ sponge-associated microbial communities when small sponges settle on such substrates. These observations likely have relevant management implications when considering the increase of artificial substrates in the marine environment, e.g., marine litter, off-shore wind parks, and petroleum platforms.