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Microbial Communities across Global Marine Basins Show Important Compositional Similarities by Depth...

by John I Miller, Dominique C Joyner, Terry C Hazen
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The environmental surveys following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill identified a variety of hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms, and laboratory studies with field-collected water samples then demonstrated faster-than-expected hydrocarbon biodegradation rates at 5°C. Knowledge about microbial community composition, diversity, and functional metabolic capabilities aids in understanding and predicting petroleum biodegradation by microbial communities in situ and is therefore an important component of the petroleum spill response decision-making process. This study investigates the taxonomic composition of microbial communities in six different global basins where petroleum and gas activities occur. Shallow-water communities were strikingly similar across basins, while deep-water communities tended to show subclusters by basin, with communities from the epipelagic, mesopelagic, and bathypelagic zones sometimes appearing within the same cluster. Microbial taxa that were enriched in the water column in the Gulf of Mexico following the DWH spill were found across marine basins. Several hydrocarbon-degrading genera (e.g., Actinobacteria, Pseudomonas, and Rhodobacteriacea) were common across all basins. Other genera such as Pseudoalteromonas and Oleibacter were highly enriched in specific basins.