Sulfide formation in freshwater sediments, by sulfate-reducing microorganisms with diverse tolerance to salt Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Understanding how sulfate-reducing microbes in freshwater systems respond to added salt, and therefore sulfate, is becoming increasingly important in inland systems where the threat from salinisation is increasing. To address this knowledge gap, we carried out mesocosm studies to determine how the sulfate-reducing microbial community in sediments from a freshwater wetland would respond to salinisation. The levels of inorganic mineral sulfides produced after 6months incubation were measured to determine whether they were in sufficient quantity to be harmful if re-oxidized. Comparative sequence analysis of the dissimilatory sulfite reductase (DSR) gene was used to compare the sulfate-reducing community structure in mesocosms without salt and those incubated with moderate levels of salt. The amount of total S, acid volatile sulfide or chromium-reducible sulfide produced in sediments with 0, 1 or 5gL(-1) added salt were not significantly different. Sediments subjected to 15gL(-1) salt contained significantly higher total S and acid volatile sulfide, and levels were above trigger values for potential harm if re-oxidation occurred. The overall community structure of the sulfate-reducing microbiota (SRM) was explained by the level of salt added to sediments. However, a group of sulfate reducers were identified that occurred in both the high salt and freshwater treatments. These results demonstrate that freshwater sediments contain sulfate reducers with diverse abilities to respond to salt and can respond rapidly to increasing salinity, explaining the observation that harmful levels of acid volatile sulfides can form rapidly in sediments with no history of exposure to salt.

authors

publication date

  • December 2010