Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Energy-related wastewater contamination alters microbial communities of sediment, water, and amphibian skin

April 5, 2023

To inform responsible energy development, it is important to understand the ecological effects of contamination events. Wastewaters, a common byproduct of oil and gas extraction, often contain high concentrations of sodium chloride (NaCl) and heavy metals (e.g., strontium and vanadium). These constituents can negatively affect aquatic organisms, but there is scarce information for how wastewaters influence potentially distinct microbiomes in wetland ecosystems. Additionally, few studies have concomitantly investigated effects of wastewaters on the habitat (water and sediment) and skin microbiomes of amphibians or relationships among these microbial communities. We sampled microbiomes of water, sediment, and skin of four larval amphibian species across a gradient of chloride contamination (0.04–17,500 mg/L Cl) in the Prairie Pothole Region of North America. We detected 3129 genetic phylotypes and 68 % of those phylotypes were shared among the three sample types. The most common shared phylotypes were Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes. Salinity of wastewaters increased dissimilarity within all three microbial communities, but not the diversity or richness of water and skin microbial communities. Strontium was associated with lower diversity and richness of sediment microbial communities, but not those of water or amphibian skin, likely because metal deposition occurs in sediment when wetlands dry. Based on Bray Curtis distance matrices, sediment microbiomes were similar to those of water, but neither had substantial overlap with amphibian microbiomes. Species identity was the strongest predictor of amphibian microbiomes; frog microbiomes were similar but differed from that of the salamander, whose microbiome had the lowest richness and diversity. Understanding how effects of wastewaters on the dissimilarity, richness, and diversity of microbial communities also influence the ecosystem function of communities will be an important next step. However, our study provides novel insight into the characteristics of, and associations among, different wetland microbial communities and effects of wastewaters from energy production.

Publication Year 2023
Title Energy-related wastewater contamination alters microbial communities of sediment, water, and amphibian skin
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.163160
Authors Brian J. Tornabene, Kelly L. Smalling, Carrie E Givens, Emily Bea Oja, Blake R. Hossack
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70242071
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Jersey Water Science Center; Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center; Upper Midwest Water Science Center