The impact of temperature change on the activity and community composition of sulfate-reducing bacteria in arctic versus temperate marine sediments

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  • Department of Biological Sciences, Microbiology
  • Center for Geomicrobiology
Arctic regions may be particularly sensitive to climate warming and, consequently, rates of carbon mineralization in warming marine sediment may also be affected. Using long-term (24 months) incubation experiments at 0°C, 10°C and 20°C, the temperature response of metabolic activity and community composition of sulfate-reducing bacteria were studied in the permanently cold sediment of north-western Svalbard (Arctic Ocean) and compared with a temperate habitat with seasonally varying temperature (German Bight, North Sea). Short-term 35S-sulfate tracer incubations in a temperature-gradient block (between -3.5°C and +40°C) were used to assess variations in sulfate reduction rates during the course of the experiment. Warming of arctic sediment resulted in a gradual increase of the temperature optima (Topt) for sulfate reduction suggesting a positive selection of psychrotolerant/mesophilic sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). However, high rates at in situ temperatures compared with maximum rates showed the predominance of psychrophilic SRB even at high incubation temperatures. Changing apparent activation energies (Ea) showed that increasing temperatures had an initial negative impact on sulfate reduction that was weaker after prolonged incubations, which could imply an acclimatization response rather than a selection process of the SRB community. The microbial community composition was analysed by targeting the 16S ribosomal RNA using catalysed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH). The results showed the decline of specific groups of SRB and confirmed a strong impact of increasing temperatures on the microbial community composition of arctic sediment. Conversely, in seasonally changing sediment sulfate reduction rates and sulfate-reducing bacterial abundance changed little in response to changing temperature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Volume11
Issue7
Pages (from-to)1692-1703
ISSN1462-2912
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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