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Environ Microbiol. 2006 Feb;8(2):223-32.

Microbial community structure in polluted Baltic Sea sediments.

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Södertörn University College, Department of Natural Sciences, Huddinge, Sweden.


Nearly half the seabed of the Baltic Proper is incapable of supporting life of higher organisms as a consequence of oxygen depletion resulting from eutrophication. However, these areas are actually teeming with microbial life. Here we used terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) to investigate the dominant archaeal and bacterial groups, with respect to community structure, in surface layers of bottom sediments of the Baltic Sea along a coastal pollution gradient. Both archaeal and bacterial communities formed distinct clusters along the pollution gradient and the community compositions were different at the polluted sites compared with the relatively clean reference sites. The structures of the bacterial communities were most strongly correlated to water depth, followed by organic carbon, oxygen, salinity and silicate levels. In contrast, the structures of the archaeal communities were most strongly correlated to oxygen, salinity, organic carbon, silicate and nitrate levels. Some members of the microbial communities were identified using a combination of traditional and molecular approaches. Isolates obtained on different culture media were identified by partial sequencing of their 16S rRNA genes and some novel species were found. In addition, we developed a computer program, aplaus, to elucidate the putative identities of the most dominant community members by T-RFLP.

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