In this study, we examined the hypothesis that the microbial communities in mangrove sediments with different chemical and historical characteristics respond differently to the disturbance of a hydrocarbon spill. Two different mangrove sediments were sampled, one close to an oil refinery that had suffered a recent oil spill and another that had not been in contact with oil. Based on the sampled sediment, two sets of mesocosms were built, and oil was added to one of them. They were subjected to mimicked mangrove conditions and monitored for 75 days. Archaeal and bacterial communities were evaluated through PCRDGGE. Both communities showed the emergence of small numbers of novel bands in response to oil pollution. 16S rRNA gene clone libraries were constructed from both mesocosms before the addition of oil and at day 75 after oil addition. LIBSHUFF analysis showed that both mangrove-based mesocosms contained similar communities at the start of the experiment and that they were different from the initial one, as well as from each other, after 75 days. These results hint at a role of environmental history that is not obvious from community diversity indicators, but is apparent from the response to the applied stress. © 2010 The Microbiological Society of Korea.