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Diatom Community Structure On In-service Cruise Ship Hulls

K. Hunsucker, Abhishek Koka, G. Lund, G. Swain
Published 2014 · Biology, Medicine

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Diatoms are an important component of marine biofilms found on ship hulls. However, there are only a few published studies that describe the presence and abundance of diatoms on ships, and none that relate to modern ship hull coatings. This study investigated the diatom community structure on two in-service cruise ships with the same cruise cycles, one coated with an antifouling (AF) system (copper self-polishing copolymer) and the other coated with a silicone fouling-release (FR) system. Biofilm samples were collected during dry docking from representative areas of the ship and these provided information on the horizontal and vertical zonation of the hull, and intact and damaged coating and niche areas. Diatoms from the genera Achnanthes, Amphora and Navicula were the most common, regardless of horizontal ship zonation and coating type. Other genera were abundant, but their presence was more dependent on the ship zonation and coating type. Samples collected from damaged areas of the hull coating had a similar community composition to undamaged areas, but with higher diatom abundance. Diatom fouling on the niche areas differed from that of the surrounding ship hull and paralleled previous studies that investigated differences in diatom community structure on static and dynamically exposed coatings; niche areas were similar to static immersion and the hull to dynamic immersion. Additionally, diatom richness was greater on the ship with the FR coating, including the identification of several new genera to the biofouling literature, viz. Lampriscus and Thalassiophysa. These results are the first to describe diatom community composition on in-service ship hulls coated with a FR system. This class of coatings appears to have a larger diatom community compared to copper-based AF systems, with new diatom genera that have the ability to stick to ship hulls and withstand hydrodynamic forces, thus creating the potential for new problematic species in the biofilm.
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