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Open AccessArticle

Dynamics of Hydrology and Anaerobic Hydrocarbon Degrader Communities in A Tar-Oil Contaminated Aquifer

1
Institute of Groundwater Ecology, Helmholtz Zentrum München—German Research Center for Environmental Health, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany
2
Research Unit Comparative Microbiome Analysis and Research Unit Scientific Computing, Helmholtz Zentrum München—German Research Center for Environmental Health, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Present address: ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, Annandale, NJ 08801, USA.
Present address: Bavarian Environment Agency, 82407 Wielenbach, Germany.
§
Present address: Technische Hochschule Rosenheim, 83024 Rosenheim, Germany.
Present address: University of Vienna, Center of Functional Ecology, Department of Limnology & Bio-Oceanography, 1090 Vienna, Austria.
Present address: Department of Ecological Microbiology, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany.
Microorganisms 2019, 7(2), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms7020046
Received: 21 December 2018 / Revised: 30 January 2019 / Accepted: 6 February 2019 / Published: 9 February 2019
Aquifers are typically perceived as rather stable habitats, characterized by low biogeochemical and microbial community dynamics. Upon contamination, aquifers shift to a perturbed ecological status, in which specialized populations of contaminant degraders establish and mediate aquifer restoration. However, the ecological controls of such degrader populations, and possible feedbacks between hydraulic and microbial habitat components, remain poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence of such couplings, via 4 years of annual sampling of groundwater and sediments across a high-resolution depth-transect of a hydrocarbon plume. Specialized anaerobic degrader populations are known to be established at the reactive fringes of the plume. Here, we show that fluctuations of the groundwater table were paralleled by pronounced dynamics of biogeochemical processes, pollutant degradation, and plume microbiota. Importantly, a switching in maximal relative abundance between dominant degrader populations within the Desulfobulbaceae and Desulfosporosinus spp. was observed after hydraulic dynamics. Thus, functional redundancy amongst anaerobic hydrocarbon degraders could have been relevant in sustaining biodegradation processes after hydraulic fluctuations. These findings contribute to an improved ecological perspective of contaminant plumes as a dynamic microbial habitat, with implications for both monitoring and remediation strategies in situ. View Full-Text
Keywords: BTEX; anaerobic toluene degradation; benzylsuccinate synthase; microbial community dynamics; next-generation sequencing BTEX; anaerobic toluene degradation; benzylsuccinate synthase; microbial community dynamics; next-generation sequencing
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Pilloni, G.; Bayer, A.; Ruth-Anneser, B.; Fillinger, L.; Engel, M.; Griebler, C.; Lueders, T. Dynamics of Hydrology and Anaerobic Hydrocarbon Degrader Communities in A Tar-Oil Contaminated Aquifer. Microorganisms 2019, 7, 46.

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