Microbial communities are key in the marine environment since they define the magnitude and pathways of organic matter, nutrient and energy dynamics. Despite microbial metabolism and productivity are presently being described in some ecosystems, there is little information on microbial dynamics and community composition for the planktonic and benthic realms of many neritic and oceanic regions. This information is important to have a better understanding of biogeochemical processes and gradients in open waters and muddy and calcareous sediments, bioremediation, coral diseases, macro/epibiotic relationships and the importance of endosymbionts in the production of pharmacologically important compounds, pollution and climate change. In the Caribbean and South American regions, microbial diversity assessments from marine systems are very limited, representing a huge information gap.
To fill in this gap, a Latin American and Caribbean International Census of Marine Microbes (LACAR- ICoMM) has been established. LACAR-ICOMM constitutes a network of marine scientists of both regions working in diverse areas of microbiology in coastal and oceanic systems, working with the Prokarya and Eukarya domains. This network aims to share knowledge, experience, sampling facilities and methodologies of the different research laboratories within the regions, to promote the development of joint and multidisciplinary projects, and to focus on capacity building (courses, training workshops and meetings). This group is constituted by researchers from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, France, French Guiana, Uruguay and Cuba.
In the short term, the LACAR-ICOMM group aims to improve knowledge of the patterns of distribution of microbial diversity of coastal and oceanic regions in the Caribbean and South America and to carry out new collection of samples in the mentioned regions, especially in zones and microbial habitats not presently included in ongoing studies. The most relevant products of this network are the unique microbial collection, the development of standard sampling protocols aimed to reduce expenses of extraction, purification and preservation of genetic material to a minimum, raising public interest and the uploading of data into OBIS.