Hydrodynamic disturbance controls microbial community assembly and biogeochemical processes in coastal sediments

Ya-Jou Chen, Pok Man Leung, Perran L.M. Cook, Wei Wen Wong, Tess Hutchinson, Vera Eate, Adam J. Kessler, Chris Greening

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15 Citations (Scopus)


The microbial community composition and biogeochemical dynamics of coastal permeable (sand) sediments differs from cohesive (mud) sediments. Tide- and wave-driven hydrodynamic disturbance causes spatiotemporal variations in oxygen levels, which select for microbial generalists and disrupt redox cascades. In this work, we profiled microbial communities and biogeochemical dynamics in sediment profiles from three sites varying in their exposure to hydrodynamic disturbance. Strong variations in sediment geochemistry, biogeochemical activities, and microbial abundance, composition, and capabilities were observed between the sites. Most of these variations, except for microbial abundance and diversity, significantly correlated with the relative disturbance level of each sample. In line with previous findings, metabolically flexible habitat generalists (e.g., Flavobacteriaceae, Woeseaiceae, Rhodobacteraceae) dominated in all samples. However, we present evidence that aerobic specialists such as ammonia-oxidizing archaea (Nitrosopumilaceae) were more abundant and active in more disturbed samples, whereas bacteria capable of sulfate reduction (e.g., uncultured Desulfobacterales), dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA; e.g., Ignavibacteriaceae), and sulfide-dependent chemolithoautotrophy (e.g., Sulfurovaceae) were enriched and active in less disturbed samples. These findings are supported by insights from nine deeply sequenced metagenomes and 169 derived metagenome-assembled genomes. Altogether, these findings suggest that hydrodynamic disturbance is a critical factor controlling microbial community assembly and biogeochemical processes in coastal sediments. Moreover, they strengthen our understanding of the relationships between microbial composition and biogeochemical processes in these unique environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)750-763
Number of pages14
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

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