Recent characterization of the bacterial community structure in beach sands has revealed patterns of biogeography similar to those observed in aquatic environments. Studies to date, however, have mainly focused on subtidal sediments from marine beaches. Here, we investigate the bacterial diversity, using Illumina-based sequencing of the V5-V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene, at 11 beaches representing those next to the Great Lakes, Florida, and the Pacific Ocean. The alpha diversity differed significantly among regions (P < 0.0001), while the within-region diversity was more similar. The beta diversity also differed by region (P < 0.001), where freshwater sands had significantly higher abundances of taxa within the Actinobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, and Verrucomicrobia than marine environments. In contrast, marine sands harbored greater abundances of Gammaproteobacteria and Planctomycetes, and those from Florida had more Deltaproteobacteria and Firmicutes. Marine beaches had significantly different phylogenetic community structures (P ≤ 0.018), but freshwater and Florida beaches showed fewer within-region phylogenetic differences. Furthermore, regionally distinct patterns in taxonomic variation were observed in backshore sands, which had communities distinct from those in nearshore sands (P < 0.001). Sample depth minimally influenced the community composition. The results of this study reveal distinct bacterial community structures in sand on a broad geographic scale but moderate regional similarity and suggest that local variation is primarily related to the distance from the shoreline. This study offers a novel comparison of the bacterial communities in freshwater and marine beach sands and provides an important basis for future comparisons and analyses to elucidate factors affecting microbial ecology in this underexplored environment.
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