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The Western English Channel contains a persistent microbial seed bank.


Robust seasonal dynamics in microbial community composition have previously been observed in the English Channel L4 marine observatory. These could be explained either by seasonal changes in the taxa present at the L4 site, or by the continuous modulation of abundance of taxa within a persistent microbial community. To test these competing hypotheses, deep sequencing of 16S rRNA from one randomly selected time point to a depth of 10,729,927 reads was compared with an existing taxonomic survey data covering 6 years. When compared against the 6-year survey of 72 shallow sequenced time points, the deep sequenced time point maintained 95.4% of the combined shallow OTUs. Additionally, on average, 99.75%±0.06 (mean±s.d.) of the operational taxonomic units found in each shallow sequenced sample were also found in the single deep sequenced sample. This suggests that the vast majority of taxa identified in this ecosystem are always present, but just in different proportions that are predictable. Thus observed changes in community composition are actually variations in the relative abundance of taxa, not, as was previously believed, demonstrating extinction and recolonization of taxa in the ecosystem through time.

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