Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Frontiers In Microbiology



First Page



Subterranean estuaries (STEs) have been recognized as important ecosystems for the exchange of materials between the land and sea, but the microbial players of biogeochemical processes have not been well examined. In this study, we investigated the bacterial and archaeal communities within 10 cm depth intervals of a permeable sediment core (100 cm in length) collected from a STE located at Gloucester Point (GP-STE), VA, United States. High throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA genes and subsequent bioinformatics analyses were conducted to examine the composition, diversity, and potential functions of the sediment communities. The community composition varied significantly from the surface to a depth of 100 cm with up to 13,000 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) based on 97% sequence identities. More than 95% of the sequences consisted of bacterial OTUs, while the relative abundances of archaea, dominated by Crenarchaea, gradually increased with sediment core depth. Along the redox gradients of GP-STE, differential distribution of ammonia-and methane-oxidizing, denitrifying, and sulfate reducing bacteria was observed as well as methanogenic archaea based on predicted microbial functions. The aerobic-anaerobic transition zone (AATZ) had the highest diversity and abundance of microorganisms, matching with the predicted functional diversity. This indicates the AATZ as a hotspot of biogeochemical processes of STEs. The physical and geochemical gradients in different depths have attributed to vertical stratification of microbial community composition and function in the GP-STE.




Submarine Groundwater Discharge; Living Bacterial Communities; Dissolved Organic-Matter; Water; Bay; Diversity; Nutrients; Patterns; Aquifers; Elements

Publication Statement

Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: