Paper: How polychaetes affect oil contaminated sediments

Taylor JD and Cunliffe M (2015) Polychaete burrows harbour distinct microbial communities in oil-contaminated coastal sediments. Environmental Microbiology Reports. DOI: 10.1111/1758-2229.12292
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Abstract

Previous studies have shown that the bioturbating polychaete Hediste (Nereis) diversicolor can affect the composition of bacterial communities in oil-contaminated sediments, but have not considered diversity specifically within bioturbator burrows or the impact on microbial eukaryotes. We tested the hypothesis that H. diversicolor burrows harbour different eukaryotic and bacterial communities compared with un-bioturbated sediment, and that bioturbation stimulates oil degradation. Oil-contaminated sediment was incubated with or without H. diversicolor for 30 days, after which sediment un-affected by H. diversicolor and burrow DNA/RNA samples were analysed using quantitative reverse transcription PCR (Q-RT-PCR) and high-throughput sequencing. Fungi dominated both burrow and un-bioturbated sediment sequence libraries; however, there was significant enrichment of bacterivorous protists and nematodes in the burrows. There were also significant differences between the bacterial communities in burrows compared with un-bioturbated sediment. Increased activity and relative abundance of aerobic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in the burrows coincided with the significant reduction in hydrocarbon concentration in the bioturbated sediment. This study represents the first detailed assessment of the effect of bioturbation on total microbial communities in oil-contaminated sediments. In addition, it further shows that bioturbation is a significant factor in determining microbial diversity within polluted sediments and plays an important role in stimulating bioremediation.

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