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Title: Metal-oxide precipitation influences microbiome structure in hyporheic zones receiving acid rock drainage
Streams impacted by historic mining activity are characterized by acidic pH, unique microbial communities, and abundant metal-oxide precipitation, all of which can influence groundwater-surface water exchange. We investigate how metal-oxide precipitates and hyporheic mixing mediate the composition of microbial communities in two streams receiving acid-rock and mine drainage near Silverton, Colorado, USA. A large, neutral pH hyporheic zone facilitated the precipitation of metal particles/colloids in hyporheic porewaters. A small, low pH hyporheic zone, limited by the presence of a low-permeability, iron-oxyhydroxide layer known as ferricrete, led to the formation of steep geochemical gradients and high dissolved-metal concentrations. To determine how these two hyporheic systems influence microbiome composition, we installed well clusters and deployed in situ microcosms in each stream to sample porewaters and sediments for 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Results indicated that distinct hydrogeochemical conditions were present above and below the ferricrete in the low pH system. A positive feedback loop may be present in the low pH stream where microbially-mediated precipitation of iron-oxides contribute to additional clogging of hyporheic pore spaces, separating abundant, iron-oxidizing bacteria (Gallionella spp.) above the ferricrete from rare, low-abundance bacteria below the ferricrete. Metal precipitates and colloids that formed in the neutral pH hyporheic zone were associated with a more diverse phylogenetic community of nonmotile, nutrient-cycling bacteria that may be transported through hyporheic pore spaces. In summary, biogeochemical conditions influence, and are influenced by, hyporheic mixing, which mediates the distribution of micro-organisms and thus the cycling of metals in streams receiving acid-rock and mine drainage.  more » « less
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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Semrau, Jeremy D.
Publisher / Repository:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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