Biogeochemical responses and seasonal dynamics of the benthic boundary layer microbial communities during the el niño 2015 in an eastern boundary upwelling system

Verónica Molina, Marcela Cornejo-D’ottone, Eulogio H. Soto, Eduardo Quiroga, Guillermo Alarcón, Daniela Silva, Carla Acuña, Nelson Silva

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3 Scopus citations


The Eastern South Pacific coastal zone is characterized by seasonal and interannual variability, driven by upwelling and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), respectively. These oceanographical conditions influence microbial communities and their contribution to nutrient and greenhouse gases recycling, especially in bottom waters due to oxygenation. This article addresses the seasonal hydrographic and biogeochemical conditions in the water and sediments during El Niño 2015. Bottom water active microbial communities, including nitrifiers, were studied using amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA (cDNA) and RT-qPCR, respectively. The results of the hydrographic analysis showed changes in the water column associated with the predominance of sub-Antarctic Waters characterized by warmed and low nutrients in the surface and more oxygenated conditions at the bottom in comparison with El Niño 2014. The organic matter quantity and quality decreased during fall and winter. The bottom water active microbial assemblages were dominated by archaea (Ca. Poseidoniales) and putative ammonia oxidizing archaea. Active bacteria affiliated to SAR11, Marinimicrobia and Nitrospina, and oxygen deficient realms (Desulfobacterales, SUP05 clade and anammox) suffered variations, possibly associated with oxygen and redox conditions in the benthic boundary layer. Nitrifying functional groups contributed significantly more during late fall and winter which was consistent with higher bottom water oxygenation. Relationships between apparent oxygen utilization nitrate and nitrous oxide in the water support the contribution of nitrification to this greenhouse gas distribution in the water. In general, our study suggests that seasonal oceanographic variability during an El Niño year influences the microbial community and thus remineralization potential, which supports the need to carry out longer time series to identify the relevance of seasonality under ENSO in Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems (EBUS) areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number180
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2021


  • El Niño Southern Oscillation
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Microbial communities
  • Organic matter composition
  • Seasonal upwelling
  • Sediments


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