Linking geology and microbiology: inactive pockmarks affect sediment microbial community structure

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 24;9(1):e85990. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085990. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Pockmarks are geological features that are found on the bottom of lakes and oceans all over the globe. Some are active, seeping oil or methane, while others are inactive. Active pockmarks are well studied since they harbor specialized microbial communities that proliferate on the seeping compounds. Such communities are not found in inactive pockmarks. Interestingly, inactive pockmarks are known to have different macrofaunal communities compared to the surrounding sediments. It is undetermined what the microbial composition of inactive pockmarks is and if it shows a similar pattern as the macrofauna. The Norwegian Oslofjord contains many inactive pockmarks and they are well suited to study the influence of these geological features on the microbial community in the sediment. Here we present a detailed analysis of the microbial communities found in three inactive pockmarks and two control samples at two core depth intervals. The communities were analyzed using high-throughput amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA V3 region. Microbial communities of surface pockmark sediments were indistinguishable from communities found in the surrounding seabed. In contrast, pockmark communities at 40 cm sediment depth had a significantly different community structure from normal sediments at the same depth. Statistical analysis of chemical variables indicated significant differences in the concentrations of total carbon and non-particulate organic carbon between 40 cm pockmarks and reference sample sediments. We discuss these results in comparison with the taxonomic classification of the OTUs identified in our samples. Our results indicate that microbial communities at the sediment surface are affected by the water column, while the deeper (40 cm) sediment communities are affected by local conditions within the sediment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Geography
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Geology*
  • Metagenome
  • Microbiota
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Substances

  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Grant support

This work was funded by VISTA grant nr 6503 to KSJ. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.