Effects of naphthalene on microbial community composition in the Delaware estuary


  • Editor: Julian Marchesi

  • Present address: Dawn M. Castle, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Biological and Environmental Sciences, 615 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37403, USA.

Correspondence: David L. Kirchman, College of Marine Studies, University of Delaware, Lewes, DE 19958, USA. Tel.: +1 302 645 4375; fax: +1 302 645 4028; e-mail: kirchman@udel.edu


The effects of naphthalene on microbial communities in the bottom boundary layer of the Delaware Bay estuary were investigated in microcosms using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with oligonucleotide probes. Three days after the addition of naphthalene, rates of bacterial production and naphthalene mineralization were higher than in no-addition controls and than in cases where glucose was added. Analyses using both DGGE and FISH indicated that the bacterial community changed in response to the addition of naphthalene. FISH data indicated that a few major phylogenetic groups increased in response to the glucose addition and especially to the naphthalene addition. DGGE also demonstrated differences in community composition among treatments, with four phylotypes being unique to naphthalene-amended treatments and three of these having 16S rRNA genes similar to known hydrocarbon degraders. The bacterial community in the naphthalene-amended treatment was distinct from the communities in the glucose-amended treatment and in the no-addition control. These data suggest that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons may have large effects on microbial community structure in estuaries and probably on microbially mediated biogeochemical processes.