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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 23;8(9):e74983. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074983. eCollection 2013.

A metagenomics transect into the deepest point of the Baltic Sea reveals clear stratification of microbial functional capacities.

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  • 1School of Natural Sciences and Environmental Studies, Södertörn University, Huddinge, Sweden ; Department of Molecular Biology and Functional Genomics, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.


The Baltic Sea is characterized by hyposaline surface waters, hypoxic and anoxic deep waters and sediments. These conditions, which in turn lead to a steep oxygen gradient, are particularly evident at Landsort Deep in the Baltic Proper. Given these substantial differences in environmental parameters at Landsort Deep, we performed a metagenomic census spanning surface to sediment to establish whether the microbial communities at this site are as stratified as the physical environment. We report strong stratification across a depth transect for both functional capacity and taxonomic affiliation, with functional capacity corresponding most closely to key environmental parameters of oxygen, salinity and temperature. We report similarities in functional capacity between the hypoxic community and hadal zone communities, underscoring the substantial degree of eutrophication in the Baltic Proper. Reconstruction of the nitrogen cycle at Landsort deep shows potential for syntrophy between archaeal ammonium oxidizers and bacterial denitrification at anoxic depths, while anaerobic ammonium oxidation genes are absent, despite substantial ammonium levels below the chemocline. Our census also reveals enrichment in genetic prerequisites for a copiotrophic lifestyle and resistance mechanisms reflecting adaptation to prevalent eutrophic conditions and the accumulation of environmental pollutants resulting from ongoing anthropogenic pressures in the Baltic Sea.

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