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Effect of temperature on bacterial community in petroleum hydrocarbon-contaminated and uncontaminated Antarctic soil


It is generally accepted that bacterial diversity in a community confers resistance to environmental perturbation. Communities with high bacterial diversity are less likely to be impacted by environmental changes such as warming. As such, hydrocarbon-contaminated Antarctic soil that are typically characterised by low bacterial diversity and highly selective taxonomic composition are expected to be more sensitive to changes in temperature than uncontaminated Antarctic soil. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated the response of bacterial community structure to warming of hydrocarbon-contaminated and uncontaminated soil collected from Casey Station, Windmill Island, East Antarctica by using microcosms incubated at 5, 10 and 15 °C over a period of 12 weeks. Our results showed that shifts occurred in the bacterial community in relation to the incubation temperatures in both the hydrocarbon-contaminated and uncontaminated soil, with a stronger response observed in the contaminated soil. Taxa referred as comprising hydrocarbon-degrading genera such as Rhodococcus, was the most prevalent genus in the contaminated soil after incubation at 15 °C, accounting for approximately 32–50% of the total detected genera. However, there were no significant differences in the selected functional genes, potentially suggesting high levels of metabolic plasticity in the studied soil bacterial communities. Overall, we showed that hydrocarbon contamination in soil might lead to lower bacterial community stability against environmental perturbation such as temperature variation.

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The HC and UC Antarctic soils were kindly provided by the Australian Antarctic Division through Australian Antarctic Science Project #4036 (Remediation of Petroleum Contaminants in the Antarctic and subantarctic). This work was funded by UMRG (RP007-2012B) and YPASM fellowship (IMUR121/12). The authors thank University of Malaya and International Medical University for providing research facility and support.

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Correspondence to C. W. Chong.

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Chong, C.W., Silvaraj, S., Supramaniam, Y. et al. Effect of temperature on bacterial community in petroleum hydrocarbon-contaminated and uncontaminated Antarctic soil. Polar Biol 41, 1763–1775 (2018).

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  • Antarctic soil
  • Bacterial community plasticity
  • Functional gene abundance
  • Soil microcosm