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A study in ultra-ecology: microorganisms on the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L

Author(s): Novak R


Microbial colonization on the leaves of a shoot of the mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) DELILE was studied using Scanning Electron Microscopy. Methods of field ecology such as transect, random plot and stratified sampling survey were applied to the microbial niveau to gain both qualitative and quantitative information on the microbial assemblage.

While macro-epiphytic growth was significantly greater on the outer leaf sides, microbial colonization density was significantly higher on the inner leaf sides, both on leaf surface and epiphyte surface. Diatoms colonized the surface of incrusting algae and epiphytic animals in significantly lower numbers than the Posidonia leaf surface and were absent on erect epiphytic algae. Bacterial densities on epiphyte surfaces even exceeded values of the corresponding leaf surfaces on algal thalli near the leaf tips and on old leaves. Diatoms reach highest mean density on mature leaves and close to the leaf tips, while bacteria reach their greatest density on the oldest leaf and closer to the leaf base. Diatom density in general increases with exposure time of plant surface, while greatest bacterial density was observed at 7–10 weeks exposure. Basal leaf parts on younger leaves were dominated by rod-shaped bacteria, while distal leaf parts and old leaves were dominated by small coccoid bacteria. Surfaces of epiphytic algae were always distinctly dominated by small coccoid bacteria, and edges of thalli attracted high microbial densities. Microbial biomass (calculated from cell volumes using standard conversion factors) amounts to 2.3 g dry weight m-2 in the Posidonia stand where the shoot was sampled.

The observed patterns of epiphytic colonization are interpreted as the result of a complex, dynamically changing system of interactions both within the epiphytic community and between the epiphytic community, the host plant, and it's environment. A model of the organization of the epiphytic community on Posidonia leaves is presented. “Ultra-ecology” is a term introduced to denote a type of SEM research in the micro-environment which is analogous to in situ investigation in “macroscopic” ecological work.

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