Microbial Diversity and PAH Catabolic Genes Tracking Spatial Heterogeneity of PAH Concentrations.
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We analyzed the within-site spatial heterogeneity of microbial community diversity, polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) catabolic genotypes, and physiochemical soil properties at a creosote contaminated site. Genetic diversity and community structure were evaluated from an analysis of denaturant gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified sequences of 16S rRNA gene. The potential PAH degradation capability was determined from PCR amplification of a suit of aromatic dioxygenase genes. Microbial diversity, evenness, and PAH genotypes were patchily distributed, and hot and cold spots of their distribution coincided with hot and cold spots of the PAH distribution. The analyses revealed a positive covariation between microbial diversity, biomass, evenness, and PAH concentration, implying that the creosote contamination at this site promotes diversity and abundance. Three patchily distributed PAH-degrading genotypes, NAH, phnA, and pdo1, were identified, and their abundances were positively correlated with the PAH concentration and the fraction of soil organic carbon. The covariation of the PAH concentration with the number and spatial distribution of catabolic genotypes suggests that a field site capacity to degrade PAHs may vary with the extent of contamination.