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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Mar;70(3):1723-34.

Microbial diversity and heterogeneity in sandy subsurface soils.

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  • 1Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831, USA.


Microbial community diversity and heterogeneity in saturated and unsaturated subsurface soils from Abbott's Pit in Virginia (1.57, 3.25, and 4.05 m below surface) and Dover Air Force Base in Delaware (6.00 and 7.50 m below surface) were analyzed using a culture-independent small-subunit (SSU) rRNA gene (rDNA)-based cloning approach. Four to six dominant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were identified in 33 to 100 unique SSU rDNA clones (constituting about 40 to 50% of the total number of SSU rDNA clones in the clone library) from the saturated subsurface samples, whereas no dominant OTUs were observed in the unsaturated subsurface sample. Less than 10% of the clones among samples from different depths at the same location were identical, and the proportion of overlapping OTUs was lower for the samples that were vertically far apart than for adjacent samples. In addition, no OTUs were shared between the Abbott's Pit and Dover samples. The majority of the clones (80%) had sequences that were less than 5% different from those in the current databases. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that most of the bacterial clones were affiliated with members of the Proteobacteria family (90%), gram-positive bacteria (3%), and members of the Acidobacteria family (3%). Principal component analysis revealed that samples from different geographic locations were well separated and that samples from the same location were closely grouped together. In addition, the nonsaturated subsurface samples from Abbott's Pit clustered together and were well separated from the saturated subsurface soil sample. Finally, the overall diversity of the subsurface samples was much lower than that of the corresponding surface soil samples.

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