Spatial and Vertical Variability in Bacterial Community Structure in the Sediment of the South China Sea

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Peng Wang, Wei Xie, Songze Chen and Chuanlun L. Zhang, State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology, Tongji University, Shanghai, China
The ocean subsurface contains one of the largest pools of reactive carbon and nitrogen on earth, and thus serves as the largest realm for microbial life. However, the microbial communities that drive deep-subsurface geochemical processes are vastly unexplored. In this study, the bacterial community structure in the subsurface of the South China Sea were examined using sediment cores collected from shelf (water depth 667 m) to slope (water depth 3840 m). High-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA genes from the sediment samples resulted in a total of 270,000 sequences with each sample averaging about 10,000 sequences. In all sediment cores, the 16S rRNA gene copies of bacteria were highest in the surface sediment and decreased with the core depth. The bacterial community was dominated by Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes. In most of the sediment cores, Proteobacteria dominated surface sediment samples and decreased with depth. The community structure showed no significant difference among the stations at different water depths, which indicates that bacterial distribution in the sediment is not influenced by the water column above. However, stations along the transect from Pearl River canyon to the deep basin were grouped together by cluster analysis, which indicates that bacterial community structure at these stations may bear the same consequence of sedimentary processes of the deep South China Sea.