Changes in the ballast water tank bacterial community during a trans-sea voyage: Elucidation through next generation DNA sequencing
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Ballast water (BW) mediated bioinvasion is one of the greatest threats to the health of aquatic ecosystems. Bacteria, unlike higher organisms, are transferred in large numbers through BW. Owing to their abundance and potential pathogenicity, they pose a direct threat to the prevailing microbiome in the recipient waters and also to human health. This study investigated the changes in the BW tank bacterial community during a trans-sea voyage from Visakhapatnam port, located along the east coast of India (Bay of Bengal) to Mumbai port, located along the west coast of India (Arabian Sea). Next generation sequencing was used to explore the unculturable segment of bacteria. The BW tank conditions led to a decrease in photoautotrophs and non-spore forming bacteria. On the other hand, biofilm forming and antibiotic producing bacteria, nutrient limiting condition sustaining bacteria, and those capable of synthesizing enzymes prerequisite for active metabolism under stress, increased over time. The shifts in the bacterial community were dependent on mechanisms adopted by the clades to cope with the BW tank conditions. Functional prediction of the bacterial community revealed a significant increase in the core metabolic functions, which enabled the survival of such bacteria. As the voyage progressed, an increase in the total viable bacteria in BW tanks could be attributed to the decrease in the abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton. At the end of the voyage, the bacterial community in the BW tanks was significantly different, and the species diversity and richness were higher than that of the natural seawater (source water). Pathogenic species were more abundant during mid-voyage than at the end of the voyage, suggesting that voyage duration influences the pathogenic bacterial community. Investigating the fate of the discharged bacterial population at the deballasting point is a way forward in the assessment of marine bioinvasion.
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