Microbial diversity and stratification of South Pacific abyssal marine sediments

Environ Microbiol. 2011 Dec;13(12):3219-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02544.x. Epub 2011 Sep 6.


Abyssal marine sediments cover a large proportion of the ocean floor, but linkages between their microbial community structure and redox stratification have remained poorly constrained. This study compares the downcore gradients in microbial community composition to porewater oxygen and nitrate concentration profiles in an abyssal marine sediment column in the South Pacific Ocean. Archaeal 16S rRNA clone libraries showed a stratified archaeal community that changed from Marine Group I Archaea in the aerobic and nitrate-reducing upper sediment column towards deeply branching, uncultured crenarchaeotal and euryarchaeotal lineages in nitrate-depleted, anaerobic sediment horizons. Bacterial 16S rRNA clone libraries revealed a similar shift on the phylum and subphylum level within the bacteria, from a complex community of Alpha-, Gamma- and Deltaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Gemmatimonadetes in oxic surface sediments towards uncultured Chloroflexi and Planctomycetes in the anaerobic sediment column. The distinct stratification of largely uncultured bacterial and archaeal groups within the oxic and nitrate-reducing marine sediment column provides initial constraints for their microbial habitat preferences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / classification*
  • Archaea / genetics
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Ecosystem*
  • Gene Library
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Oxygen / analysis
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Archaeal / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Seawater / chemistry
  • Seawater / microbiology
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • RNA, Archaeal
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen