|Mills, C., Slater, G., Dias, R., Carr, S., Reddy, C., Schmidt, R., Mandernack, K., The relative contribution of methanotrophs to microbial communities and carbon cycling in soil overlying a coal-bed methane seep., FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 84: 474-494., 2013|
Small-scale variations in bacterial abundance and community structure were examined in salt marsh sediments from Virginia’s eastern shore. Samples were collected at 5 cm intervals (horizontally) along a 50 cm elevation gradient, over a 215 cm horizontal transect. For each sample, bacterial abundance was determined using acridine orange direct counts and community structure was analyzed using randomly amplified polymorphic DNA fingerprinting of whole-community DNA extracts. A geostatistical analysis was used to determine the degree of spatial autocorrelation among the samples, for each variable and each direction (horizontal and vertical). The proportion of variance in bacterial abundance that could be accounted for by the spatial model was quite high (vertical : 60%, horizontal: 73%); significant autocorrelation was found among samples separated by 25 cm in the vertical direction and up to 115 cm horizontally. In contrast, most of the variability in community structure was not accounted for by simply considering the spatial separation of samples (vertical : 11%, horizontal: 22%), and must reflect variability from other parameters (e.g., variation at other spatial scales, experimental error, or environmental heterogeneity). Microbial community patch size based upon overall similarity in community structure varied between 17 cm (vertical) and 35 cm (horizontal). Overall, variability due to horizontal position (distance from the creek bank) was much smaller than that due to vertical position (elevation) for both community properties assayed. This suggests that processes more correlated with elevation (e.g., drainage and redox potential) vary at a smaller scale (therefore producing smaller patch sizes) than processes controlled by distance from the creek bank.