Microbial community composition and diversity in Caspian Sea sediments

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2015 Jan;91(1):1-11. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiu013. Epub 2014 Dec 5.


The Caspian Sea is heavily polluted due to industrial and agricultural effluents as well as extraction of oil and gas reserves. Microbial communities can influence the fate of contaminants and nutrients. However, insight into the microbial ecology of the Caspian Sea significantly lags behind other marine systems. Here we describe microbial biomass, diversity and composition in sediments collected from three sampling stations in the Caspian Sea. Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA genes revealed the presence of a number of known bacterial and archaeal heterotrophs suggesting that organic carbon is a primary factor shaping microbial communities. Surface sediments collected from bottom waters with low oxygen levels were dominated by Gammaproteobacteria while surface sediments collected from bottom waters under hypoxic conditions were dominated by Deltaproteobacteria, specifically sulfate-reducing bacteria. Thaumarchaeota was dominant across all surface sediments indicating that nitrogen cycling in this system is strongly influenced by ammonia-oxidizing archaea. This study provides a baseline assessment that may serve as a point of reference as this system changes or as the efficacy of new remediation efforts are implemented.

Keywords: Caspian Sea; Illumina; PLFA; archaea; bacteria; marine sediments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Biodiversity*
  • Biomass
  • DNA, Archaeal / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Ecology
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Microbial Consortia / genetics*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Water Pollution*


  • DNA, Archaeal
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S