The Role of Fe(III) Oxyhydroxides in Shaping Microbial Communities Capable of Fe(III) Reduction
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CitationLentini, Christopher James. 2013. The Role of Fe(III) Oxyhydroxides in Shaping Microbial Communities Capable of Fe(III) Reduction. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractIron oxyhrdroxide exist in a range of crystallinities and subsequent bioavailabilities with the poorly crystalline Fe oxyhrdroxide, ferrihydrite, considered the most bioavailable. Yet, as a result of the instability ferrihydrite it quickly ripens and/or transforms to more thermodynamically stable end-members bringing into question its importance in supporting long-term Fe(III)-reducing microbial communities. Furthermore, while a wide phylogenetic diversity of microorganisms capable of reducing ferrihydrite have been isolated, these organisms show diminished abilities to reduce more stable and dominant crystalline Fe phases. Therefore to address the questions of which microorganisms and what microbial processes are responsible for controlling the reduction of diverse Fe(III) minerals phases, cultivation based approaches using both batch and column-type reactors were employed. Using geochemical and phylogenetic analysis it was revealed that the Fe oxide substrate was important in dictating the mechanisms of Fe(III) reduction, and the structure of the microbial communities. While model dissimilartory Fe reducing microorganisms were capable of reducing ferrihydrite when acetate was provided as a carbon source these organisms did not enrich and were incapable of reducing crystalline Fe(III) oxides. Instead, in enrichments where crystalline Fe(III) oxides were reduced, organisms associated with fermentation and sulfate respiration dominated, this despite using freshwater media low in sulfate (less than 200 µM). In addition, these non-model Fe reducers dominated in ferrihydrite enrichments when carbon compounds other than acetate were given. Interestingly, a strong negative correlation between Fe(III) and sulfate respiration was observed with the canonical thermodynamic view that ferrihydrite should precede sulfate as a terminal electron acceptor being challenged. Further experiments with pure cultures of Desulfovibrio putealis indicated that a catalytic sulfur cycle may be responsible for greater than expected Fe(II) values under low sulfur conditions. These findings, have broad implications in predicting microbially mediated electron flow to oxidized substrates which will dictate the pathways and degree of carbon mineralization and subsequent carbon sequestration within sediments and soils. Further, given the importance of Fe(III)-reducing communities and Fe(II) in the sequestration of both inorganic and organic contaminants, these findings will have direct bearing on contaminant mitigation and remediation.
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