Sulphate-controlled Diversity of Subterranean Microbial Communities over Depth in Deep Groundwater with Opposing Gradients of Sulphate and Methane
Journal article, 2014
The groundwater system in Olkiluoto, Finland, is stratified with a mixing layer at a depth of approximately 300m between sulphate-rich, methane-poor and sulphate-poor, methane-rich groundwaters. New sequence library data obtained by 454 pyrotag sequencing of the v4v6 16S rDNA region indicated that sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) dominated the mixing layer while SRB could not be detected in the deep sulphate-poor groundwater samples. With the indispensable support of the sequence data, it could be demonstrated that sulphate was the only component needed to trigger a very large community transition in deep sulphate-poor, methane-rich groundwater from a non-sulphate-reducing community comprising Hydrogenophaga, Pseudomonas, Thiobacillus, Fusibacter, and Lutibacter to a sulphate-reducing community with Desulfobacula, Desulfovibrio, Desufobulbaceae, Desulfobacterium, Desulfosporosinus, and Desulfotignum. Experiments with biofilms and planktonic microorganisms in flow cells under in situ conditions confirmed that adding sulphate to the sulphate-poor groundwater generated growth of cultivable SRB and detectable SRB-related sequences. It was also found that the 16S rDNA diversity of the biofilms was conserved over 103 d and that there was great similarity in diversity between the microorganisms in the biofilms and in the flowing groundwater. This work demonstrates that the presence/absence of only one geochemical parameter, i.e., sulphate, in the groundwater significantly influenced the diversity of the investigated subterranean microbial community.