MiniGrant List: 2008-2009


Title: Bacterial diversity within the Arctic Ocean: an assessment of hydrocarbon-degrading taxa

Mark Hart Principal Investigators
Mark Hart,
David Green,
Ray Leakey,
Scottish Association for Marine Science,
Dunstaffnage Marine Lab, Oban, Argyll, UK

Project goals
The proposed study will advance our understanding of total prokaryotic community abundance and diversity, and also enable the characterization of cultivable hydrocarbon-degrading population, within the arctic environment. The strains from the northern Barents Sea and north of Svalbard will then be assessed for their catabolic capability and put forward for systematic description to enhance our understanding of the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of these ecologically important microbes.

Samples for this project were taken from sea water (CTD, sediment trap), sea ice (ice corer) and seafloor sediments (megacorer). All samples taken contained isolates capable of hydrocarbon degradation. Most bacteria isolated were members of genera that contain established hydrocarbon degrading bacteria, the majority of which belonged within the Gamma-proteobacteria. The novel aspect of our work is the first-time isolation of Alcanivorax strains from arctic marine samples, from all sites including a station with almost exclusively polar origin of the water mass.

As with other studies, the specific type of hydrocarbon used for this study, Phytane, Pristane or n-hexadecane, did not significantly influence the type of bacteria isolated, indicating that the bacteria were capable of degrading all three forms of hydrocarbon. This has been demonstrated for Alcanivorax species and is to be expected to a degree due to the aliphatic nature of all the tested compounds. Few of the species were known psychrophiles with the exception of a Psychrobacter species isolated from sediment trap material from the marginal ice zone. A publication is planned.

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