Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis (T-RFLP) was used to track the changes of bacterial community compositions (BCC) in coastal surface sediments along an environmental pollution gradient between 2004 and 2006. BCC in the chronically contaminated sites showed the largest deviation from those in the adjacent sites. Surprisingly, BCC at two contrasting environments (oceanic vs. river-influenced) were more similar. Unexpectedly, the BCC did not recover (when compared to oceanic control site) even after 5 years of pollution abatement initiatives in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. On the other hand, disposal of treated sewage for 5 years in one of the sites did not significantly affect the BCC. A striking seasonal variation in the BCC was observed at only the polluted sites. Although factors other than pollution gradients may explain the observed BCC patterns, the information presented here can be useful in predicting long-term effects of pollution on BCC. Furthermore, this study suggests that BCC analysis using T-RFLP is a faster, reliable and easier approach to monitor microbenthic community response to environmental pollution gradient in coastal sediments.
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