Effect of spatial origin and hydrocarbon composition on bacterial consortia community structure and hydrocarbon biodegradation rates

Lloyd D Potts* (Corresponding Author), Luis J Perez Calderon, Evangelia Gontikaki, Lehanne Keith, Cécile Gubry-Rangin, James A Anderson, Ursula Witte

*Corresponding author for this work

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Oil reserves in deep-sea sediments are currently subject to intense exploration, with associated risks of oil spills. Previous research suggests that microbial communities from deep-sea sediment (>1000 m) can degrade hydrocarbons, but have a lower degradation ability than shallow (<200 m) communities, probably due to in situ temperature. This study aimed to assess the effect of marine origin on microbial hydrocarbon (HC) degradation potential while separating the influence of temperature, and to characterise associated HC-degrading bacterial communities. Microbial communities from 135 and 1000 m deep sediments were selectively enriched on crude oil at in situ temperatures and both consortia were subsequently incubated for 42 days at 20°C with two HC mixtures: diesel fuel or model oil. Significant HC biodegradation occurred rapidly in the presence of both consortia, especially of low molecular weight HCs and was concomitant with microbial community changes. Further, oil degradation was higher with the shallow consortium than with the deep one. Dominant HC-degrading bacteria differed based on both spatial origin of the consortia and supplemented HC-types. This study provides evidence for influence of sediment spatial origin and hydrocarbon composition on the selection and activity of marine HC-degrading bacterial communities and is relevant for future bioremediation developments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)fiy127-fiy127
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number9
Early online date30 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council [NE/L00982X/1 to UW, JA and EG]. CGR was supported by a University Research Fellowship from the Royal Society [UF150571].


  • Faroe-Shetland Channel
  • hydrocarbon degradation
  • microbial community
  • bacteria
  • deep sea


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