Previous studies have shown that sulfate-reduction activity occurs in a heterogeneous manner throughout the terrestrial subsurface. Low-activity regions are often observed in the presence of clay minerals. Here we report that clays inhibit sulfate reduction activity in sediments and in a pure culture of Desulfovibriovulgaris. Clay minerals including bentonite and kaolinite inhibited sulfate reduction by 70–90% in sediments. Intact clays and clay colloids or soluble components, capable of passing through a 0.2-µm filter, were also inhibitory to sulfate-reducing bacteria. Other adsorbent materials, including anion or cation exchangers and a zeolite, did not inhibit sulfate reduction in sediments, suggesting that the effect of clays was not due to their cation-exchange capacity. We observed a strong correlation between the Al2O3content of clays and their relative ability to inhibit sulfate reduction in sediments (r2 = 0.82). This suggested that inhibition might be a direct effect of Al3+ (aq) on the bacteria. We then tested pure aluminum oxide (Al2O3) and showed it to act in a similar manner to clay. As dissolved aluminum is known to be toxic to a variety of organisms at low concentrations, our results suggest that the effects of clay on sulfate-reducing bacteria may be directly due to aluminum. Thus, our experiments provide an explanation for the lack of sulfate-reduction activity in clay-rich regions and presents a mechanism for the effect.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Impact of clay minerals on sulfate-reducing activity in aquifers|
|Series title||Microbial Ecology|
|Contributing office(s)||Toxic Substances Hydrology Program|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|