To explore the potential linkage between distribution of marine bacterioplankton groups, environmental conditions, and water mass, we investigated the factors determining the abundance of bacterial taxa across the hydrographically complex Subtropical Convergence Zone in the Sargasso Sea. Based on information from 16S rRNA gene clone libraries from various locations and two depths, abundances of the predominant taxa (eubacteria, Archaea, Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and the Roseobacter, SAR11, and SAR86 clades) were quantified by real-time PCR. In addition, the abundances of Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, and picoalgae were determined by flow cytometry. Linear multiple-regression models determining the relative effects of eight environmental variables and of water mass explained 35 to 86% of the variation in abundance of the quantified taxa, even though only one to three variables were significantly related to any particular taxon's abundance. Most of the variation in abundance was explained by depth and chlorophyll a. The predominant phototrophs, Prochlorococcus and picoalgae, were negatively correlated with phosphate, whereas eubacteria, heterotrophic bacteria, and SAR86 were negatively correlated with nitrite. Water mass showed limited importance for explaining the abundance of the taxonomical groups (significant only for Roseobacter, explaining 14% of the variation). The results suggest the potential for predicting the abundance of broad bacterioplankton groups throughout the Sargasso Sea using only a few environmental parameters.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2014, Vol 80, Issue 9, p. 2786-2795