Underground allies: Spartina roots and sulfur-cycling microbes

The Great Sippewissett Salt Marsh has served as a natural laboratory for many generations of students and scientists at MBL (Photo: MBL Ecosystems)

New project investigating sulfur-cycling in the Spartina rhizosphere collaborating with Zoe Cardon (PI), and co-PIs Blair Paul, Elena Lopez Peredo, and Anne Giblin at MBL.

Spartina alterniflora  is a native cordgrass dominating intertidal salt marsh platforms along thousands of miles of the U.S. East and Gulf coasts. The interaction among Spartina roots, sulfate reducing bacteria, and sulfur oxidizing bacteria is at the core of salt marsh health. We aim to establish a model system for understanding mechanisms underlying this symbiosis using plants and microbes isolated from the Plum Island Ecosystem Long Term Ecological Research site north of Boston. The Spartina root system and its associated sulfur-cycling microbes control an ecosystem-scale production, recycling and detoxification system, maintaining vast expanses of clonal Spartina that are crucibles for marine coastal life, and creating peat platforms critical for salt marsh persistence in the face of rising sea levels. The project is funded by the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative by the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation. Read more in the MBL press release.

Schematic of interactions between the three investigated players in the Spartina holobiont.