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Predicting outcomes of marine disease outbreaks presents a challenge in the face of both global and local stressors. Host-associated microbiomes may play important roles in disease dynamics but remain understudied in marine ecosystems. Host–pathogen–microbiome interactions can vary across host ranges, gradients of disease, and temperature; studying these relationships may aid our ability to forecast disease dynamics. Eelgrass, Zostera marina, is impacted by outbreaks of wasting disease caused by the opportunistic pathogen Labyrinthula zosterae. We investigated how Z. marina phyllosphere microbial communities vary with rising wasting disease lesion prevalence and severity relative to plant and meadow characteristics like shoot density, longest leaf length, and temperature across 23° latitude in the Northeastern Pacific. We detected effects of geography (11%) and smaller, but distinct, effects of temperature (30-day max sea surface temperature, 4%) and disease (lesion prevalence, 3%) on microbiome composition. Declines in alpha diversity on asymptomatic tissue occurred with rising wasting disease prevalence within meadows. However, no change in microbiome variability (dispersion) was detected between asymptomatic and symptomatic tissues. Further, we identified members of Cellvibrionaceae, Colwelliaceae, and Granulosicoccaceae on asymptomatic tissue that are predictive of wasting disease prevalence across the geographic range (3,100 kilometers). Functional roles of Colwelliaceae and Granulosicoccaceae are not known. Cellvibrionaceae, degraders of plant cellulose, were also enriched in lesions and adjacent green tissue relative to nonlesioned leaves. Cellvibrionaceae may play important roles in disease progression by degrading host tissues or overwhelming plant immune responses. Thus, inclusion of microbiomes in wasting disease studies may improve our ability to understand variable rates of infection, disease progression, and plant survival.

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National Science Foundation


Labyrinthula zosterae, microbiome, phyllosphere, seagrass, wasting disease, Zostera marina


Full author list: Deanna S. Beatty, Lillian R. Aoki, Brendan Rappazzo, Chelsea Bergman, Lia K. Domke, J. Emmett Duffy, Katie Dubois, Ginny L. Eckert, Carla Gomes, Olivia J. Graham, Leah Harper, C. Drew Harvell, Timothy L. Hawthorne, Margot Hessing-Lewis, Kevin Hovel, Zachary L. Monteith, Ryan S. Mueller, Angeleen M. Olson, Carolyn Prentice, Fiona Tomas, Bo Yang, John J. Stachowicz

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Urban and Regional Planning