Kelp forests are characterized by high biodiversity and productivity, and the cycling of kelp-produced carbon is a vital process in this ecosystem. Although bacteria are assumed to play a major role in kelp forest carbon cycling, knowledge of the composition and diversity of these bacterial communities is lacking. Bacterial communities on the surface of Macrocystis pyrifera and adjacent seawater were sampled at the Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey Bay, CA, and further studied using 454-tag pyrosequencing of 16S RNA genes. Our results suggest that M. pyrifera-dominated kelp forests harbor distinct microbial communities that vary temporally. The distribution of sequence tags assigned to Gammaproteobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria and Bacteriodetes differed between the surface of the kelp and the surrounding water. Several abundant Rhodobacteraceae, uncultivated Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteriodetes-associated tags displayed considerable temporal variation, often with similar trends in the seawater and the surface of the kelp. Bacterial community structure and membership correlated with the kelp surface serving as host, and varied over time. Several kelp-specific taxa were highly similar to other bacteria known to either prevent the colonization of eukaryotic larvae or exhibit antibacterial activities. Some of these kelp-specific bacterial associations might play an important role for M. pyrifera. This study provides the first assessment of the diversity and phylogenetic profile of the bacterial communities associated with M. pyrifera.
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