Microbial community composition across a coastal hydrological system affected by submarine groundwater discharge (SGD)
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Mobile Bay, the fourth largest estuary in the USA located in the northern Gulf of Mexico, is known for extreme hypoxia in the water column during dry season caused by NH4+-rich and anoxic submarine groundwater discharge (SGD).

Nutrient dynamics in the coastal ecosystem point to potentially elevated microbial activities; however, little is known about microbial community composition and their functional roles in this area. In this study, we investigated microbial community composition, distribution, and metabolic prediction along the coastal hydrological compartment of Mobile Bay using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We collected microbial samples from surface (river and bay water) and subsurface water (groundwater and coastal pore water from two SGD sites with peat and sandy lithology, respectively). Salinity was identified as the primary factor affecting the distribution of microbial communities across surface water samples, while DON and PO43- were the major predictor of community shift within subsurface water samples. Higher microbial diversity was found in coastal pore water in comparison to surface water samples. Gammaproteobacteria, Bacteroidia, and Oxyphotobacteria dominated the bacterial community. Among the archaea, methanogens were prevalent in the peat-dominated SGD site, while the sandy SGD site was characterized by a higher proportion of ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Cyanobium PCC-6307 and unclassified Thermodesulfovibrionia were identified as dominant taxa strongly associated with trends in environmental parameters in surface and subsurface samples, respectively. Microbial communities found in the groundwater and peat layer consisted of taxa known for denitrification and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA). This finding suggested that microbial communities might also play a significant role in mediating nitrogen transformation in the SGD flow path and in affecting the chemical composition of SGD discharging to the water column. Given the ecological importance of microorganisms, further studies at higher taxonomic and functional resolution are needed to accurately predict chemical biotransformation processes along the coastal hydrological continuum, which influence water quality and environmental condition in Mobile Bay.

Publication Summary

  • Geosyntec Authors: Daniel Montiel
  • All Authors: Daniel Montiel, Geosyntec Consultants; Dini Adyasari, Christiane Hassenrück, Natasha Dimova
  • Title: The PLOS ONE Journal
  • Event or Publication: Publication
  • Practice Areas: Groundwater Assessment and Remediation
  • Citation: Daniel Montiel, Ph.D. (Florida) coauthored a paper entitled "Microbial community composition across a coastal hydrological system affected by submarine groundwater discharge (SGD)" that was published in the PLOS ONE journal on June 29, 2020.
  • Date: June 29, 2020
  • Publication Type: Journal Article