Environmental Selection and Biogeography Shape the Microbiome of Subsurface Petroleum Reservoirs

Daniel A. Gittins, Srijak Bhatnagar, Casey R.J. Hubert

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


Petroleum reservoirs within the deep biosphere are extreme environments inhabited by diverse microbial communities and represent biogeochemical hot spots in the subsurface. Despite the ecological and industrial importance of oil reservoir microbiomes, systematic study of core microbial taxa and their associated genomic attributes spanning different environmental conditions is limited. Here, we compile and compare 343 16S rRNA gene amplicon libraries and 25 shotgun metagenomic libraries from oil reservoirs in different parts of the world to test for the presence of core taxa and functions. These oil reservoir libraries do not share any core taxa at the species, genus, family, or order levels, and Gammaproteobacteria was the only taxonomic class detected in all samples. Instead, taxonomic composition varies among reservoirs with different physicochemical characteristics and with geographic distance highlighting environmental selection and biogeography in these deep biosphere habitats. Gene-centric metagenomic analysis reveals a functional core of metabolic pathways including carbon acquisition and energy-yielding strategies consistent with biogeochemical cycling in other subsurface environments. Genes for anaerobic hydrocarbon degradation are observed in a subset of the samples and are therefore not considered to represent core functions in oil reservoirs despite hydrocarbons representing an abundant source of carbon in these deep biosphere settings. Overall, this work reveals common and divergent features of oil reservoir microbiomes that are shaped by and responsive to environmental factors, highlighting controls on subsurface microbial community assembly.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr. 2023


  • environmental microbiology
  • geomicrobiology
  • metagenomics
  • microbial ecology


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