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New study shows never before seen nutrient exchanges between algae and bacteria

Research co-led by Newcastle University has shed new light on important microscopic scale interactions between algae and bacteria predicated on the mutually beneficial exchange of nutrients.

The research was carried out at the University of Cambridge and the Nordsim laboratory at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm by Dr. Hannah Laeverenz Schlogelhofer, now at the University of Exeter, and a team led by Dr. Ottavio Croze, of Newcastle University's School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics.

They have used an advanced high-spatial resolution isotope mapping technique called 'SIMS' (secondary ion mass spectrometry) to chart for the first time how long it takes for labeled carbon produced by microalgae to be transferred to the bacteria they are growing with.

The study reveals the details of important nutrient exchanges between algae and bacteria. Such exchanges determine the functioning of microbial communities in the environment, relevant to climate change cycles and agricultural productivity. Microbial interactions within microbial communities are important on many levels, ranging from the ecology of aquatic and terrestrial food webs, to wastewater treatment. A key characteristic of the interactions within these communities is the exchange of nutrients between species.

Publishing their findings in the journal PLOS ONE, the research team, involving also scientists from Stockholm University, Sweden, also used a mathematical model to predict how the concentrations of nutrients exchanged between the microbes change with time, including vitamin B12, which occurs in very low concentrations and is not easily trackable.

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