Microbial diversity in engineered haloalkaline environments shaped by shared geochemical drivers observed in natural analogues

T.C. Santini, L.A. Warren, K.E. Kendra

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    19 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. Microbial communities in engineered terrestrial haloalkaline environments have been poorly characterized relative to their natural counterparts and are geologically recent in formation, offering opportunities to explore microbial diversity and assembly in dynamic, geochemically comparable contexts. In this study, the microbial community structure and geochemical characteristics of three geographically dispersed bauxite residue environments along a remediation gradient were assessed and subsequently compared with other engineered and natural haloalkaline systems. In bauxite residues, bacterial communities were similar at the phylum level (dominated by Proteobacteria and Firmicutes) to those found in soda lakes, oil sands tailings, and nuclear wastes; however, they differed at lower taxonomic levels, with only 23% of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) shared with other haloalkaline environments. Although being less diverse than natural analogues, bauxite residue harbored substantial novel bacterial taxa, with 90% of OTUs nonmatchable to cultured representative sequences. Fungal communities were dominated by Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, consistent with previous studies of hypersaline environments, and also harbored substantial novel (73% of OTUs) taxa. In bauxite residues, community structure was clearly linked to geochemical and physical environmental parameters, with 84% of variation in bacterial and 73% of variation in fungal community structures explained by environmental parameters. The major driver of bacterial community structure (salinity) was consistent across natural and engineered environments; however, drivers differed for fungal community structure between natural (pH) and engineered (total alkalinity) environments. This study demonstrates that both engineered and natural terrestrial haloalkaline environments host substantial repositories of microbial diversity, which are strongly shaped by geochemical drivers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5026-5036
    JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
    Issue number15
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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