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Microbial life in marine sediment contributes substantially to global biomass and is a crucial component of the Earth system. Subseafloor sediment includes both aerobic and anaerobic microbial ecosystems, which persist on very low fluxes of bioavailable energy over geologic time. However, the taxonomic diversity of the marine sedimentary microbial biome and the spatial distribution of that diversity have been poorly constrained on a global scale. We investigated 299 globally distributed sediment core samples from 40 different sites at depths of 0.1 to 678 m below the seafloor. We obtained ∼47 million 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences using consistent clean subsampling and experimental procedures, which enabled accurate and unbiased comparison of all samples. Statistical analysis reveals significant correlations between taxonomic composition, sedimentary organic carbon concentration, and presence or absence of dissolved oxygen. Extrapolation with two fitted species–area relationship models indicates taxonomic richness in marine sediment to be 7.85 × 103 to 6.10 × 105 and 3.28 × 104 to 2.46 × 106 amplicon sequence variants for Archaea and Bacteria, respectively. This richness is comparable to the richness in topsoil and the richness in seawater, indicating that Bacteria are more diverse than Archaea in Earth’s global biosphere.

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