Chemically mediated microbial "gardening" capacity of a seaweed holobiont is dynamic.
Terrestrial plants are known to "garden" the microbiota of their rhizosphere via released metabolites (that can attract beneficial microbes and deter pathogenic microbes). Such a "gardening" capacity is also known to be dynamic in plants. Although microbial "gardening" has been recently demonstrated for seaweeds, we do not know whether this capacity is a dynamic property in any aquatic flora like in terrestrial plants. Here, we tested the dynamic microbial "gardening" capacity of seaweeds using the model invasive red seaweed Agarophyton vermiculophyllum. Following an initial extraction of surface-associated metabolites (immediately after field collection), we conducted a long-term mesocosm experiment for 5 months to test the effect of two different salinities (low = 8.5 and medium = 16.5) on the microbial "gardening" capacity of the alga over time. We tested "gardening" capacity of A. vermiculophyllum originating from two different salinity levels (after 5 months treatments) in settlement assays against three disease causing pathogenic bacteria and seven protective bacteria. We also compared the capacity of the alga with field-collected samples. Abiotic factors like low salinity significantly increased the capacity of the alga to deter colonization by pathogenic bacteria while medium salinity significantly decreased the capacity of the alga over time when compared to field-collected samples. However, capacity to attract beneficial bacteria significantly decreased at both tested salinity levels when compared to field-collected samples. Dynamic microbial "gardening" capacity of a seaweed to attract beneficial bacteria and deter pathogenic bacteria is demonstrated for the first time. Such a dynamic capacity as found in the current study could also be applicable to other aquatic host-microbe interactions. Our results may provide an attractive direction of research towards manipulation of salinity and other abiotic factors leading to better defended A. vermiculophyllum towards pathogenic bacteria thereby enhancing sustained production of healthy A. vermiculophyllum in farms.