Cable bacteria that are capable of transporting electrons on centimeter scales have been found in a variety of sediment types, where their activity can strongly influence diagenetic reactions and elemental cycling. In this study, the patterns of spatial and temporal colonization of surficial sediment by cable bacteria were revealed in two-dimensions by planar pH and H2S optical sensors for the first time. The characteristic sediment surface pH maximum zones begin to develop from isolated micro-regions and spread horizontally within 5 days, with lateral spreading rates from 0.3 to ~ 1.2 cm day−1. Electrogenic anodic zones in the anoxic sediments are characterized by low pH, and the coupled pH minima also expand with time. H2S heterogeneities in accordance with electrogenic colonization are also observed. Cable bacteria cell abundance in oxic surface sediment (0–0.25 cm) kept almost constant during the colonization period; however, subsurface cell abundance apparently increased as electrogenic activity expanded across the entire surface. Changes in cell abundance are consistent with filament coiling and growth in the anodic zone (i.e., cathodic snorkels). The spreading mechanism for the sediment pH–H2S fingerprints and the cable bacteria abundance dynamics suggest that once favorable microenvironments are established, filamentous cable bacteria aggregate or locally activate electrogenic metabolism. Different development dynamicsmore »
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Biogenic structures and cable bacteria interactions: redox domain residence times and the generation of complex pH distributionsCable bacteria are multicellular filamentous bacteria that conduct electrons nonlocally between anoxic and oxic sediment regions, creating characteristic electrogenic pH fingerprints. These microbes aggregate in 3D patterns near biogenic structures, and filament fragments are also dispersed throughout deposits. Utilizing pH-sensitive planar optodes to investigate the dynamic response of electrogenic pH fingerprints to sediment reworking, we found that mobile bioturbators like nereid polychaetes (ragworms) can disturb the pH signatures. Sudden sediment disturbance associated with burrows at sub- to multi-centimeter scales eliminates detection of pH signatures. However, electrogenic pH fingerprints can recover in as little as 13 h near abandoned, closed burrows. Sequential collapse and regeneration of electrogenic pH fingerprints are associated with occupied and dynamic burrow structures, with the response time positively related to the scale of disturbance. In the case of relatively stable tube structures, built by benthos like spionid polychaetes and extending mm to cm into deposits, the electrogenic pH fingerprint is evident around the subsurface tubes. Cable filaments clearly associate with subsurface regions of enhanced solute exchange (oxidant supply) and relatively stable biogenic structures, including individual tubes and patches of tubes (e.g. made by Sabaco , a bamboo worm). Physically stable environments, favorable redox gradients, and enhanced organic/inorganicmore »
Small-Scale Geochemical Heterogeneities and Seasonal Variation of Iron and Sulfide in Salt Marshes Revealed by Two-Dimensional SensorsLoss of tidal wetlands is a world-wide phenomenon. Many factors may contribute to such loss, but among them are geochemical stressors such as exposure of the marsh plants to elevated levels on hydrogen sulfide in the pore water of the marsh peat. Here we report the results of a study of the geochemistry of iron and sulfide at different seasons in unrestored (JoCo) and partially restored (Big Egg) salt marshes in Jamaica Bay, a highly urbanized estuary in New York City where the loss of salt marsh area has accelerated in recent years. The spatial and temporal 2-dimensional distribution patterns of dissolved Fe 2+ and H 2 S in salt marshes were in situ mapped with high resolution planar sensors for the first time. The vertical profiles of Fe 2+ and hydrogen sulfide, as well as related solutes and redox potentials in marsh were also evaluated by sampling the pore water at discrete depths. Sediment cores were collected at various seasons and the solid phase Fe, S, N, C, and chromium reducible sulfide in marsh peat at discrete depths were further investigated in order to study Fe and S cycles, and their relationship to the organic matter cycling at differentmore »
Electrogenic cable bacteria can couple spatially separated redox reaction zones in marine sediments using multicellular filaments as electron conductors. Reported as generally absent from disturbed sediments, we have found subsurface cable aggregations associated with tubes of the parchment worm Chaetopterus variopedatus in otherwise intensely bioturbated deposits. Cable bacteria tap into tubes, which act as oxygenated conduits, creating a three-dimensional conducting network extending decimeters into sulfidic deposits. By elevating pH, promoting Mn, Fe-oxide precipitation in tube linings, and depleting S around tubes, they enhance tube preservation and favorable biogeochemical conditions within the tube. The presence of disseminated filaments a few cells in length away from oxygenated interfaces and the reported ability of cable bacteria to use a range of redox reaction couples suggest that these microbes are ubiquitous facultative opportunists and that long filaments are an end-member morphological adaptation to relatively stable redox domains.