About this Research Topic
The Arabian/Persian Gulf or the “Gulf” is a naturally stressed, semi-enclosed sea characterized by one of the highest reported surface temperatures of any water body on the planet. The relatively high-latitude location of this subtropical sea creates significant temperature fluctuations ranging from 16°C to 35°C due to the seasonal differences of insolation and cold winds from the nearby highlands. These factors result in high evaporation rates, which in combination with low annual precipitation, elevate salinity levels in most of the Gulf water from an average oceanic value of 35 psu to > 40 psu. The large fluctuations in temperature and high salinity create a harsh environment that makes the Gulf relatively selective for the biota that can flourish and survive. Also, extensive urbanization of the Gulf coasts has contributed to rapid changes in the chemistry of the Gulf, resulting in permanent coastline alteration and marine habitat loss, which exacerbate stressors on the indigenous species of the Gulf. In addition, the Gulf coasts are heavily polluted with diverse environmental xenobiotics, including crude oil, microplastics endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and heavy metals, which have a direct impact on the structure and function of the Gulf organisms. Despite all of the abovementioned factors, changes in the Gulf species composition along spatial gradients are significant, suggesting adaptation to local disturbances. Recent research has shown this to be the case for higher organisms; however, little is known about how microorganisms respond to these large and abrupt environmental changes. Marine microbial ecology research began in the region almost 50 years ago following the flourishing of the oil industry and the modernization of the countries bordering the Gulf banks.
Despite the work already published about the Gulf environment, much information is still missing on the diversity, activity, and dynamics of microorganisms. For instance, little is known about the nature of marine viruses, archaea, and fungi and their adaptability to the Gulf harsh conditions. Furthermore, information about the role of various marine microbes in the environment, such as their function in the food chain and recycling of nutrients, minerals, and pollutants under high salinity and large temperature fluctuation, is limited. Most of the information available so far was generated for the intertidal area, and very little is from the pelagic system and benthic region. Therefore, more research involving holistic trans-boundary studies is required to reveal the unique diversity, adaptability, and spatial variation on the microbial level. Little research has also been conducted to exploit the Gulf extremophilic microbes for biotechnology and industry where studies on the biotechnological potential of the Gulf microbiome are sporadic and biased toward bioremediation of hydrocarbon pollutants. The vast majority of available microbiological data was generated by conventional approaches such as culturing techniques; data generated using more robust approaches like omics are now needed to understand the microbial ecology of the Gulf better.
This Research Topic aims to compile interdisciplinary basic and applied research adopting advanced techniques to address questions of particular interest and contribute to a better understanding of the microbial ecology of the Gulf, due to the increasing international interest in the Gulf environment and its species which currently thriving at environmental conditions expected to dominate the world oceans at the end of the century. The Research Topic welcomes various submissions, including original research articles, reviews, protocols, and methods covering all aspects of microbial ecology in the Gulf, including, but are not limited to, the following areas:
Microbial community structural and functional diversity
Dynamics of microbial communities
Adaptations to various environmental stresses.
Microbial biogeochemical cycling in the Gulf water and sediments.
Oil pollution and bioremediation
Global warming and ocean acidification
Keywords: Arabian/ Persian Gulf, microbial ecology, structural and functional diversity, microbiome
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.