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Spatial distribution patterns of benthic microbial communities along the Pearl Estuary, China

Liu, Jiwen, Yang, Hongmei, Zhao, Meixun, Zhang, Xiao-Hua
Systematic and applied microbiology 2014 v.37 no.8 pp. 578-589
Chloroflexi, Spirochaetes, anthropogenic activities, bacterial communities, benthic zone, beta-Proteobacteria, biogeochemical cycles, biogeography, carbon, carbon nitrogen ratio, delta-Proteobacteria, estuaries, freshwater, heterotrophs, methanogens, niches, nitrogen, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, ribosomal RNA, saline water, sediments, sequence analysis, sulfate-reducing bacteria, sulfur, China
In the present study, benthic microbial communities along the Pearl Estuary, a typical subtropical estuary in China subjected to extensive anthropogenic disturbance, were investigated using 16S rRNA gene-based pyrosequencing. The results showed that microbial communities in freshwater samples were clearly distinct from those in saltwater samples, since the relative sequence abundances of Deltaproteobacteria, Thermoplasmata and Marine Group I (MG-I) were higher in saltwater sediments, whereas Chloroflexi, Spirochaetes, Betaproteobacteria and methanogens were more prevalent in freshwater sediments. In addition, bacterial communities showed vertical stratifications in saltwater sediments, but remained constant with depth in freshwater sediments. The total organic carbon and carbon/nitrogen ratio in sediments correlated significantly with the overall community variations. The predominance of various microorganisms in specific niches led to efforts to identify their functional couplings by exploring their co-occurrence patterns. Using network analysis, strong positive correlations were observed between sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, and between SRB and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria, indicating the potential interactions of intra-sulfur cycle processes, as well as sulfur and nitrogen cycles, in coastal sediments. Archaeal clades revealed strong and wide correlations between the Miscellaneous Crenarchaeotal Group (MCG) and other groups, suggesting a central role of MCG in the coastal benthic environment. Inversely, MG-I displayed negative correlations with other clades, which might indicate that the lifestyles of heterotrophic and autotrophic clades were mutually exclusive. This study presented a detailed outline of the biogeographic patterns of benthic microbial communities along the Pearl Estuary and provided new information regarding the potential interactions of various biogeochemical cycles in coastal sediments.