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In situ analysis of oxygen consumption and diffusive transport in high-temperature acidic iron-oxide microbial mats

Authors

  • Hans C. Bernstein,

    1. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
    2. Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
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    • Equal contribution to primary authorship responsibilities.
  • Jacob P. Beam,

    1. Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
    2. Thermal Biology Institute, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
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    • Equal contribution to primary authorship responsibilities.
  • Mark A. Kozubal,

    1. Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
    2. Thermal Biology Institute, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
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  • Ross P. Carlson,

    1. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
    2. Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
    3. Thermal Biology Institute, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
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  • William P. Inskeep

    Corresponding author
    1. Thermal Biology Institute, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
    • Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
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For correspondence. E-mail binskeep@montana.edu; Tel. 406 994 5077; Fax 406 994 3933.

Summary

The role of dissolved oxygen as a principal electron acceptor for microbial metabolism was investigated within Fe(III)-oxide microbial mats that form in acidic geothermal springs of Yellowstone National Park (USA). Specific goals of the study were to measure and model dissolved oxygen profiles within high-temperature (65–75°C) acidic (pH = 2.7–3.8) Fe(III)-oxide microbial mats, and correlate the abundance of aerobic, iron-oxidizing Metallosphaera yellowstonensis organisms and mRNA gene expression levels to Fe(II)-oxidizing habitats shown to consume oxygen. In situ oxygen microprofiles were obtained perpendicular to the direction of convective flow across the aqueous phase/Fe(III)-oxide microbial mat interface using oxygen microsensors. Dissolved oxygen concentrations dropped from ∼ 50–60 μM in the bulk-fluid/mat surface to below detection (< 0.3 μM) at a depth of ∼ 700 μm (∼ 10% of the total mat depth). Net areal oxygen fluxes into the microbial mats were estimated to range from 1.4–1.6 × 10−4 μmol cm−2 s−1. Dimensionless parameters were used to model dissolved oxygen profiles and establish that mass transfer rates limit the oxygen consumption. A zone of higher dissolved oxygen at the mat surface promotes Fe(III)-oxide biomineralization, which was supported using molecular analysis of Metallosphaera yellowstonensis 16S rRNA gene copy numbers and mRNA expression of haem Cu oxidases (FoxA) associated with Fe(II)-oxidation.

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