Changes in Prokaryote and Eukaryote Assemblages Along a Gradient of Hydrocarbon Contamination in Groundwater

S. Stephenson, A. A. Chariton, M. P. Holley, M. O'Sullivan, M. R. Gillings, G. C. Hose

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater biota are particularly sensitive to environmental perturbations such as groundwater contamination. The diversity of prokaryotic and eukaryotic biota has been examined along a gradient of chlorinated hydrocarbon (CHC) contamination in the Botany Sands, an urban coastal sand-bed aquifer (Sydney, Australia). Molecular techniques were used to analyze the richness and composition of prokaryote and eukaryote assemblages using 16S and 18S rDNA, respectively. Taxon richness did not change significantly along the gradient for either prokaryotes or eukaryotes; however, significant shifts in assemblage composition were evident for both groups. Assemblage changes were most strongly correlated with concentrations of the major CHC, cis-1,2-dichloroethene, but the concentrations of a number of the contaminants were also correlated, making it difficult to infer if effects were due to any particular contaminant. The presence of cis-1,2-dichloroethene and other secondary ethenes suggests in situ breakdown of the primary CHCs via natural attenuation. The current focus of management of the Botany aquifer is to stop the contaminant plume reaching the adjoining estuary. This approach is clearly justified given the changes evident in the microbial assemblages in the groundwater, which are a likely consequence of the contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-634
Number of pages12
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • community structure
  • groundwater
  • molecular ecology
  • subsurface microbiology

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