Aquifer environment selects for microbial species cohorts in sediment and groundwater

ISME J. 2015 Aug;9(8):1846-56. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.2. Epub 2015 Feb 3.


Little is known about the biogeography or stability of sediment-associated microbial community membership because these environments are biologically complex and generally difficult to sample. High-throughput-sequencing methods provide new opportunities to simultaneously genomically sample and track microbial community members across a large number of sampling sites or times, with higher taxonomic resolution than is associated with 16 S ribosomal RNA gene surveys, and without the disadvantages of primer bias and gene copy number uncertainty. We characterized a sediment community at 5 m depth in an aquifer adjacent to the Colorado River and tracked its most abundant 133 organisms across 36 different sediment and groundwater samples. We sampled sites separated by centimeters, meters and tens of meters, collected on seven occasions over 6 years. Analysis of 1.4 terabase pairs of DNA sequence showed that these 133 organisms were more consistently detected in saturated sediments than in samples from the vadose zone, from distant locations or from groundwater filtrates. Abundance profiles across aquifer locations and from different sampling times identified organism cohorts that comprised subsets of the 133 organisms that were consistently associated. The data suggest that cohorts are partly selected for by shared environmental adaptation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Colorado
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Groundwater / microbiology*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Metagenome
  • RNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / analysis


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S