Metabarcoding the Antarctic Peninsula biodiversity using a multi-gene approach
Marine sediment communities are major contributors to biogeochemical cycling and benthic ecosystem functioning, but they are poorly described, particularly in remote regions such as Antarctica. We analysed patterns and drivers of diversity in metazoan and prokaryotic benthic communities of the Antarctic Peninsula with metabarcoding approaches. Our results show that the combined use of mitochondrial Cox1, and 16S and 18S rRNA gene regions recovered more phyla, from metazoan to non-metazoan groups, and allowed correlation of possible interactions between kingdoms. This higher level of detection revealed dominance by the arthropods and not nematodes in the Antarctic benthos and further eukaryotic diversity was dominated by benthic protists: the
world’s largest reservoir of marine diversity. The bacterial family Woeseiaceae was described for the first time in Antarctic sediments. Almost 50% of bacteria and 70% metazoan taxa were unique to each sampled site (high alpha diversity) and harboured unique features for local adaptation (niche-driven). The main abiotic drivers measured, shaping community structure were sediment organic matter, water content and mud. Biotic factors included the nematodes and the highly abundant bacterial fraction, placing protists as a possible bridge for between kingdom interactions. Meiofauna are proposed as sentinels for identifying anthropogenic-induced changes in Antarctic marine sediments.