In a contaminated water-table aquifer, we related microbial community structure on aquifer sediments to gradients in 24 geochemical and contaminant variables at five depths, under three recharge conditions. Community amplified ribsosomal DNA restriction analysis (ARDRA) using universal 16S rDNA primers and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) using bacterial 16S rDNA primers indicated: (i) communities in the anoxic, contaminated central zone were similar regardless of recharge; (ii) after recharge, communities at greatest depth were similar to those in uncontaminated zones; and (iii) after extended lack of recharge, communities at upper and lower aquifer margins differed from communities at the same depths on other dates. General aquifer geochemistry was as important as contaminant or terminal electron accepting process (TEAP) chemistry in discriminant analysis of community groups. The Shannon index of diversity (H) and the evenness index (E), based on DGGE operational taxonomic units (OTUs), were statistically different across community groups and aquifer depths. Archaea or sulphate-reducing bacteria 16S rRNA abundance was not clearly correlated with TEAP chemistry indicative of methanogenesis or sulphate reduction. Eukarya rRNA abundance varied by depth and date from 0 to 13% of the microbial community. This contaminated aquifer is a dynamic ecosystem, with complex interactions between physical, chemical and biotic components, which should be considered in the interpretation of aquifer geochemistry and in the development of conceptual or predictive models for natural attenuation or remediation.
Additional publication details
Spatial and temporal changes in microbial community structure associated with recharge-influenced chemical gradients in a contaminated aquifer