Microbial carbon, sulfur, iron, and nitrogen cycling linked to the potential remediation of a meromictic acidic pit lake

Diana Ayala-Muñoz, Jennifer L. Macalady, Javier Sánchez-España, Carmen Falagán, Estelle Couradeau, William D. Burgos

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Cueva de la Mora is a permanently stratified acidic pit lake and a model system for extreme acid mine drainage (AMD) studies. Using a combination of amplicon sequencing, metagenomics and metatranscriptomics we performed a taxonomically resolved analysis of microbial contributions to carbon, sulfur, iron, and nitrogen cycling. We found that active green alga Coccomyxa onubensis dominated the upper layer and chemocline. The chemocline had activity for iron(II) oxidation carried out by populations of Ca. Acidulodesulfobacterium, Ferrovum, Leptospirillium, and Armatimonadetes. Predicted activity for iron(III) reduction was only detected in the deep layer affiliated with Proteobacteria. Activity for dissimilatory nitrogen cycling including nitrogen fixation and nitrate reduction was primarily predicted in the chemocline. Heterotrophic archaeal populations with predicted activity for sulfide oxidation related to uncultured Thermoplasmatales dominated in the deep layer. Abundant sulfate-reducing Desulfomonile and Ca. Acidulodesulfobacterium populations were active in the chemocline. In the deep layer, uncultured populations from the bacterial phyla Actinobacteria, Chloroflexi, and Nitrospirae contributed to both sulfate reduction and sulfide oxidation. Based on this information we evaluated the potential for sulfide mineral precipitation in the deep layer as a tool for remediation. We argue that sulfide precipitation is not limited by microbial genetic potential but rather by the quantity and quality of organic carbon reaching the deep layer as well as by oxygen additions to the groundwater enabling sulfur oxidation. Addition of organic carbon and elemental sulfur should stimulate sulfate reduction and limit reoxidation of sulfide minerals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2666-2679
Number of pages14
JournalISME Journal
Issue number12
Early online date19 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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