Nicolas Van Oostende
The composition of bacterial and phytoplankton communities and their interactions during phytoplankton blooms are important properties of the microbial food web, which can potentially have a strong impact on the fate of organic matter and hence elemental cycling in the world’s oceans. Because each functional group, size class, or microbial species can potentially influence specific biogeochemical cycles in their own way, their abundance and activities will shape the world we live in. Although many gaps remain in our knowledge about microbial species distribution and its scales of variability, our understanding of the role of microorganisms in the functioning of biogeochemical cycles and their regulatory environmental factors is even more limited. Moreover, rapidly changing global conditions of ocean temperature and acidity may affect these functional microbial groups in a species-specific way, prompting investigation in the contemporary environmental factors that control their distribution. To tackle these questions it is necessary to couple the fields of (molecular) microbiology, biogeochemistry, and modeling more profoundly.
We aim to describe 1) the composition of phytoplankton communities in major ocean basins will on the basis of functional genes (i.e., related to essential functions in assimilation of carbon and nitrogen) using high throughput analytical methods (the Phytoarray), we will 2) evaluate assemblage patterns derived from the Phytoarray and their relationships to environmental factors, and use 3) these results to inform the development and refinement of biogeochemical ocean models to forecast trends in the ecosystems over time in response to climate change. The analytical methods can also be used to monitor phytoplankton community changes over time to continually calibrate and validate both biogeochemical models of carbon flux and satellite remote sensing based models of primary productivity.