Diatom-bacteria associations and interactions in intertidal phototrophic biofilms

01 October 2014 → 30 September 2018
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund, Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Other biological sciences
biofilm bacteria
Project description

The world’s oceans are filled with countless microscopic but hugely important life
forms. Microalgae produce as much oxygen as all land plants together, and form the
basis of marine food webs. Bacteria consume organic matter and drive fluxes of
carbon and energy. However, due to their minute sizes, little is as yet known about
these organisms.
In this project, we will study the intricate interactions between the most important
group of marine microalgae, the diatoms, and bacteria. Recent studies have shown
that these interactions can be highly specific, and are probably very important for the
growth of both partners. We will focus on diatom-bacteria interactions in biofilms
which are present in intertidal coastal areas. In a first part of the project, we will
characterize the associations and determine how specific they are. We will then
assess how they can be influenced by environmental and others factors (such as the
‘health’ of the diatom host). In a second part, we will use advanced molecular and
chemical techniques to unravel the actual molecular and chemical mechanisms that
are involved in the diatom-bacteria interactions.
Recent research has shown that the bacteria present in human intestinal tracts have
a surprisingly strong influence on our health. With this project we hope that by
unraveling the interactions between two hugely important marine microbial groups,
we can also increase our knowledge on how important these are for the health of the
world’s oceans.