Predictable bacterial composition and hydrocarbon degradation in Arctic soils following diesel and nutrient disturbance

Terrence H. Bell, Etienne Yergeau, Christine Maynard, David Juck, Lyle G. Whyte, Charles W. Greer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


Increased exploration and exploitation of resources in the Arctic is leading to a higher risk of petroleum contamination. A number of Arctic microorganisms can use petroleum for growth-supporting carbon and energy, but traditional approaches for stimulating these microorganisms (for example, nutrient addition) have varied in effectiveness between sites. Consistent environmental controls on microbial community response to disturbance from petroleum contaminants and nutrient amendments across Arctic soils have not been identified, nor is it known whether specific taxa are universally associated with efficient bioremediation. In this study, we contaminated 18 Arctic soils with diesel and treated subsamples of each with monoammonium phosphate (MAP), which has successfully stimulated degradation in some contaminated Arctic soils. Bacterial community composition of uncontaminated, diesel-contaminated and diesel + MAP soils was assessed through multiplexed 16S (ribosomal RNA) rRNA gene sequencing on an Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine, while hydrocarbon degradation was measured by gas chromatography analysis. Diversity of 16S rRNA gene sequences was reduced by diesel, and more so by the combination of diesel and MAP. Actinobacteria dominated uncontaminated soils with < 10% organic matter, while Proteobacteria dominated higher-organic matter soils, and this pattern was exaggerated following disturbance. Degradation with and without MAP was predictable by initial bacterial diversity and the abundance of specific assemblages of Betaproteobacteria, respectively. High Betaproteobacteria abundance was positively correlated with high diesel degradation in MAP-treated soils, suggesting this may be an important group to stimulate. The predictability with which bacterial communities respond to these disturbances suggests that costly and time-consuming contaminated site assessments may not be necessary in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1200-1210
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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