Metal removal by sulphate-reducing bacteria from natural and constructed wetlands


Jeremy S.Webb 1.800 Stopford Building, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


The use of wetlands is a promising technology to treat acid mine drainage, yet there is little understanding of the fundamental biological processes involved. They are considered to centre on the complex anaerobic ecology within sediments and involve the removal of metals by sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB). These bacteria generate hydrogen sulphide and cause precipitation of metals from solution as the insoluble metal sulphide. Sulphate-reducing bacteria have been isolated from natural and constructed wetlands receiving acid mine drainage. Sulphide production by isolates and removal of the metals iron, manganese and zinc were measured, as well as utilization of a range of carbon sources. Marked ecological differences between the wetlands were reflected in population composition of SRB enrichments, and these consortia displayed significant differences in sulphide generation and rates of metal removal from solution. Rates of metal removal did not correlate with sulphide generation in all cultures, suggesting the involvement of other biological mechanisms of metal removal. Differences in substrate utilization have highlighted the need for further investigation of carbon flow and potential carbon sources within constructed wetlands.