Functionally diverse microbial communities show resilience in response to a record-breaking rain event. Academic Article uri icon


  • Estuaries provide many ecosystem services and host a majority of the world's population. Here, the response of microbial communities after a record-breaking flood event in a highly urbanized estuary was followed. Hurricane Harvey (hereafter Harvey) was a category 4 hurricane that made landfall on the Texas coast in 2017 and lashed the Houston area with 1.4-1.71010m3 of rainfall, disrupting the natural gradients of nutrients and salinity. Here, we utilized metagenomics to analyze how Harvey altered the microbial community of Galveston Bay over five weeks following the storm. We hypothesized that the community would shift from a marine dominated community to that of a terrestrial and freshwater origin. We found that following the storm there were changes in the distribution of species with specific metabolic capacities, such as Cyanobacteria, enriched in oxygenic photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation genes, as well as Verrucomicrobia and Betaproteobacteria, with high prevalence of the SOX complex and anoxygenic photosynthesis genes. On the other hand, dominant members of the community with more diverse metabolic capabilities showed less fluctuations in their distribution. Our results highlight how massive precipitation disturbances can alter microbial communities and how the coalescence of diverse microorganisms creates a resilient community able to maintain ecosystem services even when the system is in an altered state.

published proceedings

  • ISME Commun

author list (cited authors)

  • Walker, J. R., Woods, A. C., Pierce, M. K., Steichen, J. L., Quigg, A., Kaiser, K., & Labont, J. M.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Walker, Jordan R||Woods, Alaina C||Pierce, Mary K||Steichen, Jamie L||Quigg, Antonietta||Kaiser, Karl||Labonté, Jessica M

publication date

  • September 2022