A First Insight into the Microbial and Viral Communities of Comau Fjord—A Unique Human-Impacted Ecosystem in Patagonia (42∘ S)


While progress has been made in surveying the oceans to understand microbial and viral communities, the coastal ocean and, specifically, estuarine waters, where the effects of anthropogenic activity are greatest, remain partially understudied. The coastal waters of Northern Patagonia are of interest since this region experiences high-density salmon farming as well as other disturbances such as maritime transport of humans and cargo. Here, we hypothesized that viral and microbial communities from the Comau Fjord would be distinct from those collected in global surveys yet would have the distinctive features of microbes from coastal and temperate regions. We further hypothesized that microbial communities will be functionally enriched in antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in general and in those related to salmon farming in particular. Here, the analysis of metagenomes and viromes obtained for three surface water sites showed that the structure of the microbial communities was distinct in comparison to global surveys such as the Tara Ocean, though their composition converges with that of cosmopolitan marine microbes belonging to Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria. Similarly, viral communities were also divergent in structure and composition but matched known viral members from North America and the southern oceans. Microbial communities were functionally enriched in ARGs dominated by beta-lactams and tetracyclines, bacitracin, and the group macrolide–lincosamide–streptogramin (MLS) but were not different from other communities from the South Atlantic, South Pacific, and Southern Oceans. Similarly, viral communities were characterized by exhibiting protein clusters similar to those described globally (Tara Oceans Virome); however, Comau Fjord viromes displayed up to 50% uniqueness in their protein content. Altogether, our results indicate that microbial and viral communities from the Comau Fjord are a reservoir of untapped diversity and that, given the increasing anthropogenic impacts in the region, they warrant further study, specifically regarding resilience and resistance against antimicrobials and hydrocarbons.

Sergio Guajardo-Leiva
Sergio Guajardo-Leiva
Scientific Collaborator
Beatriz Díez Moreno
Beatriz Díez Moreno
Associate Professor.
P. Universidad Católica de Chile.
School of Biological Sciences,
Department of Molecular
Genetics and Microbiology,
Santiago, Chile.