Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Environmental Pollution



PubMed ID





Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research / School of Science




Lake Macquarie Environmental Research Grant (project number 2020/21/B)


Suzzi, A. L., Stat, M., MacFarlane, G. R., Seymour, J. R., Williams, N. L., Gaston, T. F., ... & Huggett, M. J. (2022). Legacy metal contamination is reflected in the fish gut microbiome in an urbanised estuary. Environmental Pollution, 314, Article 120222.


Estuaries are critical habitats subject to a range of stressors requiring effective management. Microbes are gaining recognition as effective environmental indicators, however, the response of host associated communities to stressors remains poorly understood. We examined microbial communities from seawater, sediments and the estuarine fish Pelates sexlineatus, in Australia's largest urbanised estuary, and hypothesised that anthropogenic contamination would be reflected in the microbiology of these sample types. The human faecal markers Lachno3 and HF183 were not detected, indicating negligible influence of sewage, but a gradient in copy numbers of the class 1 integron (intI-1), which is often used as a marker for anthropogenic contamination, was observed in sediments and positively correlated with metal concentrations. While seawater communities were not strongly driven by metal contamination, shifts in the diversity and composition of the fish gut microbiome were observed, with statistical links to levels of metal contamination (F2, 21 = 1.536, p < 0.01). Within the fish gut microbiome, we further report increased relative abundance of amplicon sequence variants (ASVs; single inferred DNA sequences obtained in sequencing) identified as metal resistant and potentially pathogenic genera, as well as those that may have roles in inflammation. These results demonstrate that microbial communities from distinct habitats within estuarine systems have unique response to stressors, and alterations of the fish gut microbiome may have implications for the adaptation of estuarine fish to legacy metal contamination.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.