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Characterization of microbial communities in karstic sediments: A study of cave bacteria in central Kentucky.


Few previous studies have compared microbial communities in subterranean and surface environments. Chemical analyses used to characterize the surface and cave microbial environments indicated limited exchange between surface and subsurface waters. Here, bacterial communities from four distinct cave sediments collected in central Kentucky and adjacent surface streams were compared using a combination of culture and molecular methods. Predictions were that: (1) Cave communities will have unique community structures when compared to those of nearby surface sediments, and (2) Genetic diversity of bacterial communities in cave sediments will be higher than those in nearby surface sediments. Since diversity and community structure influence the ability of biological communities to respond to environmental disturbance, it is important to understand the ecological role of bacterial communities in cave sediments.