The Distribution of Microbial Communities in Anaerobic and Aerobic Zones of a Shallow Coastal Plain Aquifer
Randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) fingerprinting was used to determine the genetic similarity of whole-community DNA extracts from unattached microorganisms in several groundwater wells. The study site was a shallow coastal plain aquifer on the Eastern Shore of Virginia that contains distinct regions of anaerobic and aerobic groundwater. Several wells in each region were sampled, and principal component and cluster analyses showed a clear separation of the microbial communities from the two chemical zones of the aquifer. Within these zones, there was no relationship between the genetic relatedness of a pair of communities and their spatial separation. Two additional sets of samples were taken at later times, and the same clear separation between communities in the different zones of the aquifer was observed. The specific relationships between wells within each zone changed over time, however, and the magnitude and direction of these changes corresponded to concurrent changes in the groundwater chemistry at each well. Together, these results suggest that local variation in groundwater chemistry can support genetically distinct microbial communities, and that the composition of the microbial communities can follow seasonal fluctuations in groundwater chemistry.
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