Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Influence of jellyfish blooms on the aquatic microbiome in a coastal lagoon detected by a Next Generation Sequencing strategy

The rapid expansion of multicellular native and alien species outbreaks in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems (bioinvasions) may produce significant impacts on bacterial community dynamics and nutrient pathways with major ecological implications. In aquatic ecosystems, bioinvasions may cause adverse effects on the water quality resulting from changes in biological, chemical and physical properties linked to significant transformations of the microbial taxonomic and functional diversity.


Jellyfish bioinvasions drive changes in microbial biodiversity.

An effective and highly sensitive experimental strategy, bypassing the efficiency bottleneck of the traditional bacterial isolation and culturing method, was used to identify changes of the planktonic microbial community inhabiting a marine coastal lagoon (Varano, Adriatic Sea) under the influence of an outbreak-forming alien jellyfish species1. Water samples were collected from two areas that differed in their level of confinement inside in the lagoon and jellyfish densities to conduct a snapshot microbiome analysis by a metagenomic approach. After extraction of the genetic material in the environmental water samples, we deep-sequenced metagenomic amplicons of the V5–V6 region of the 16S rRNA bacterial gene by an Illumina MiSeq platform. Approximately 7.5 million paired-end reads (i.e. 15 million total reads) were generated, with an average of 2.5 million reads (1.25 Mpairs) per sample replicate.

The sequence data, analysed through a novel bioinformatics pipeline (BioMaS), showed that the structure of the resident bacterial community was significantly affected by the occurrence of jellyfish outbreaks. Clear qualitative and quantitative differences were found between the western and eastern areas (characterized by many or few jellyfish), Significant differences between the two sampling areas were particularly detected in the occurrence of 16 families, 22 genera and 61 species of microbial taxa2. This is the first time that a NGS platform has been used to screen the impact of jellyfish bioinvasions on the aquatic microbiome, providing a preliminary assessment of jellyfish-driven changes of the functional and structural microbial biodiversity.


Lead Author:

Stefano Piraino
Date of research: January 2015

Related articles:

Impact of invasive mussels on carbon flow 

Impact of jellyfish on fisheries and tourism 

Invasive ecosystem engineers and biodiversity

Invasive species and ballast waters mitigation 

Jellyfish ecophysiology, ecology, biology and bioenergetics

Jellyfish outbreaks: economic results

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.