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Arizona State University (ASU) 2021

The Symbiotic Foundation of Biocrust Microbiomes and its Application in Ecological Restoration

Nelson, Corey

Titre : The Symbiotic Foundation of Biocrust Microbiomes and its Application in Ecological Restoration

Auteur : Nelson, Corey

Université de soutenance : Arizona State University (ASU)

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2021

Biocrusts are microbial communities that inhabit arid soil surfaces, providing essential services to dryland ecosystems. A paradoxical filamentous cyanobacterium, Microcoleus vaginatus, resides within the biocrust. While is often pioneers the colonization of bare, nutrient-poor desert soils worldwide, it cannot fix dinitrogen. In nature, M. vaginatus coexists with a unique microbial community, a “cyanosphere”, that is characterized by a high abundance of diazotrophic heterotrophs. This suggests mutualistic relationships wherein nutrients are traded between phototrophs and heterotrophs. To explore these relationships, I performed targeted, pedigreed isolation of cyanosphere members and used co-cultivation to recreate the mutualism in culture. Results showed that, in the absence of fixed nitrogen, M. vaginatus grew well when co-cultured with cyanosphere diazotrophs, but only poorly or not at all when alone or with non-cyanosphere diazotrophs. In agreement with this, the experimental provision of nitrogen to natural populations resulted in a loss of diazotrophs from the cyanosphere compared to controls, but the addition of phosphorus did not. Additionally, the convergence of M. vaginatus trichomes into large bundles held by a common sheath was elicited in culture by the addition of cyanosphere diazotrophs, pointing to a role of cyanobacterial motility responses in the development of mutualistic interactions. I then demonstrated that the tendency of M. vaginatus to stay within bundles and close to the sheath-dwelling cyanosphere was dependent on the cyanosphere population size. This effect was likely mediated by glutamate that acted as a signaling molecule rather than as a N source and impacted the gliding speed and negative chemophobic responses on the cyanobacterium. Glutamate seems to be used as a cue to spatially optimize cyanobacterium-cyanosphere mutualistic exchanges. My findings have potential practical applications in restoration ecology, which I further pursued experimentally. Co-inoculation of soil with cyanosphere diazotrophs resulted in swifter development of biocrusts over inoculation with the cyanobacterium only. Further, their addition to disturbed native soils containing traces of cyanobacteria sufficed for the formation of cohesive biocrusts without cyanobacterial inoculation. The inclusion of such “biocrust probiotics” in biocrust restoration is recommended. Overall, this body of work elucidates the hitherto unknown role of beneficial heterotrophic bacteria in the initial formation and development of biocrusts.

Sujets : Environmental science Microbiology biocrust Cyanobacteria Cyanosphere

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Page publiée le 20 décembre 2021