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Early impacts of climate change on a coastal marine microbial mat ecosystem

Lingappa, Usha F. and Stein, Nathaniel T. and Metcalfe, Kyle S. and Present, Theodore M. and Orphan, Victoria J. and Grotzinger, John P. and Knoll, Andrew H. and Trower, Elizabeth J. and Gomes, Maya L. and Fischer, Woodward W. (2022) Early impacts of climate change on a coastal marine microbial mat ecosystem. Science Advances, 8 (21). Art. No. eabm7826. ISSN 2375-2548. PMCID PMC9140962. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abm7826.

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Among the earliest consequences of climate change are extreme weather and rising sea levels—two challenges to which coastal environments are particularly vulnerable. Often found in coastal settings are microbial mats—complex, stratified microbial ecosystems that drive massive nutrient fluxes through biogeochemical cycles and have been important constituents of Earth’s biosphere for eons. Little Ambergris Cay, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, supports extensive mats that vary sharply with relative water level. We characterized the microbial communities across this variation to understand better the emerging threat of sea level rise. In September 2017, the eyewall of category 5 Hurricane Irma transited the island. We monitored the impact and recovery from this devastating storm event. New mat growth proceeded rapidly, with patterns suggesting that storm perturbation may facilitate the adaptation of these ecosystems to changing sea level. Sulfur cycling, however, displayed hysteresis, stalling for >10 months after the hurricane and likely altering carbon storage potential.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ItemRaw sequence reads Information CentralArticle
Lingappa, Usha F.0000-0001-5691-6788
Stein, Nathaniel T.0000-0003-2199-6751
Metcalfe, Kyle S.0000-0002-2963-765X
Present, Theodore M.0000-0002-4747-2174
Orphan, Victoria J.0000-0002-5374-6178
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Knoll, Andrew H.0000-0003-1308-8585
Trower, Elizabeth J.0000-0001-9898-5589
Gomes, Maya L.0000-0002-9707-350X
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Additional Information:© 2022 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Received: 11 October 2021. Accepted: 12 April 2022. We thank the Agouron Institute for initiating this work through the advanced geobiology field course. This work was permitted by the Turks and Caicos Islands Department of Environment and Coastal Resources. Little Ambergris Cay is maintained as a conservation area by the Turks and Caicos National Trust. We thank P. Mahoney, J. Seymour, J. Grancich, and the Tarika family for logistical support. We thank M. Cantine, E. Orzechowski, D. Quinn, C. Sanders, D, Morris, S. Jamison-Todd, T. Mahseredijian, L.A. Reidman, S. O’Reilly, J. Strauss, M. Thorpe, E. Sibert, A. Bahniuk, J. Alleon, H. Grotzinger, M. Tarika, C. Howard, A. Hayden, S. Goffredi, B. Ehlmann, R. Phillips, and M. Simon for participating in field campaigns. We thank S. Connon for help with amplicon preparation and sequencing, S. Mullin for help with community analyses, S. Goffredi for help with embedding and sectioning, and G. Chadwick for help with fluorescence microscopy. We also thank G. Chadwick and P. Kemeny for helpful manuscript feedback. This work was funded by the Agouron Institute, NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science grant 80NSSC18K0278 (to E.J.T. and M.L.G.) and the NSF GRFP (to U.F.L.). Author contributions: U.F.L., M.L.G., E.J.T., W.W.F., V.J.O., J.P.G., and A.H.K. designed the study. All authors participated in fieldwork. N.T.S. performed drone imaging. U.F.L. and K.S.M. performed DNA extractions and analyses. U.F.L. performed microscopy. U.F.L. wrote the manuscript with input from W.W.F. All authors edited and approved the manuscript. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Raw sequence data are available as FASTQ files on the NCBI Sequence Read Archive (, under BioProject ID PRJNA766230. The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Agouron InstituteUNSPECIFIED
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:21
PubMed Central ID:PMC9140962
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220601-258002000
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Official Citation:Lingappa UF, Stein NT, Metcalfe KS, et al. Early impacts of climate change on a coastal marine microbial mat ecosystem. Sci Adv. 2022;8(21):eabm7826. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abm7826
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:115001
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:01 Jun 2022 18:33
Last Modified:03 Jun 2022 19:10

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