16S rRNA gene amplicons were pyrosequenced to assess bacterioplankton community composition, diversity, and phylogenetic community structure for 17 stations in the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM) sampled in March 2010. Statistical analyses showed that samples from depths ≤100 m differed distinctly from deeper samples. SAR 11 α-Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes dominated communities at depths ≤100 m, which were characterized by high α-Proteobacteria/γ-Proteobacteria ratios (α/γ > 1.7). Thaumarchaeota, Firmicutes, and δ-Proteobacteria were relatively abundant in deeper waters, and α/γ ratios were low (<1). Canonical correlation analysis indicated that δ- and γ-Proteobacteria, Thaumarchaeota, and Firmicutes correlated positively with depth; α-Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes correlated positively with temperature and dissolved oxygen; Actinobacteria, β-Proteobacteria, and Verrucomicrobia correlated positively with a measure of suspended particles. Diversity indices did not vary with depth or other factors, which indicated that richness and evenness elements of bacterioplankton communities might develop independently of nGoM physical-chemical variables. Phylogenetic community structure as measured by the net relatedness (NRI) and nearest taxon (NTI) indices also did not vary with depth. NRI values indicated that most of the communities were comprised of OTUs more distantly related to each other in whole community comparisons than expected by chance. NTI values derived from phylogenetic distances of the closest neighbor for each OTU in a given community indicated that OTUs tended to occur in clusters to a greater extent than expected by chance. This indicates that "habitat filtering" might play an important role in nGoM bacterioplankton species assembly, and that such filtering occurs throughout the water column.
Keywords: bacterioplankton; diversity; northern Gulf of Mexico; phylogenetic community structure; thaumarchaeota.