Subterranean microbial populations metabolize hydrogen and acetate under in situ conditions in granitic groundwater at 450 m depth in the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, Sweden
Journal article, 2012
Pressure-resistant circulating systems were constructed to enable the investigation of attached and unattached microbial populations under in situ pressure (2.5 MPa), diversity, dissolved gas and chemistry conditions. Three parallel flow cell cabinets were configured to allow observation of the effect on microbial metabolic activity of adding 3 mM hydrogen or 2.4 mM acetate, compared with an untreated control. Hydrogen addition reduced the generation time fourfold to 2 weeks, doubled the sulphide production rate and increased acetate production by approximately 50%. The acetate addition induced acetate consumption. The studied subterranean microbial processes appeared to proceed very slowly in terms of volume and time, although the results suggest that individual cells could be very active. Lytic bacteriophages are hypothesized to have caused this contradictive observation. Phages may consequently significantly reduce the rates of subterranean microbial processes. Furthermore, the results suggest that hydrogen from corroding underground constructions could induce significant local microbial activity and that the low concentrations of hydrogen often observed in pristine subterranean environments may support slow but sustainable microbial activity in deep groundwater. © 2012 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.