The effects of crude oil on microbial nitrogen cycling in coastal sediments


Zhao Y, Chen W, Wen D. The effects of crude oil on microbial nitrogen cycling in coastal sediments. Environment International [Internet]. 2020;139:105724.


Crude oil could affect certain critical microbial processes of nitrogen cycling (N-cycling) in coastal sediments, and disturb the nitrogen balance. However, the understanding of the effects of crude oil on coastal sediments N-cycling under human disturbance was still limited. In this study, two sediments (named SY and HB with heavy and slight pollution, respectively) were sampled from Hangzhou Bay, China. After an incubation with exposure to different amounts of crude oil in above two sediments for 30 days, we found that crude oil affected microbial N-cycling in multiple levels. Potential rate measurements revealed that crude oil stimulated potential denitrification and N2O emissions in both sediments, which showed a higher influence on denitrification rates in higher concentration of oil. Quantitative PCR revealed that crude oil greatly increased abundances of bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA genes and N-cycling genes (nirS, nosZ, nrfA, part of AOA and AOB amoA). On the other hand, only a few genes (16S rRNA and nrfA) showed higher transcriptional activities in oil-addition treatments. Results about relative changes of N-cycling genes revealed that the variations of N-cycling genes in oil-addition treatments were related to sediment types but not crude oil concentrations, and the genes in HB were more sensitive to crude oil than SY. Network analysis of N-cycling genes found that crude oil decreased the complexity of N-cycling gene networks in SY, while increased complexity in HB, and led to more competition among N-cycling microbes. Our findings help to look into the effects of crude oil on key N-cycling processes, and improve the understanding of the interactions among N-cycling under crude oil contamination.