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Precipitation of low-temperature dolomite from an anaerobic microbial consortium: the role of methanogenic Archaea


Corresponding author: J. A. Roberts. Tel.: +1 785 864 1960; fax: +1 785 864 5276; e-mail:


Here we report precipitation of dolomite at low temperature (30 °C) mediated by a mixed anaerobic microbial consortium composed of dissimilatory iron-reducing bacteria (DIRB), fermenters, and methanogens. Initial solution geochemistry is controlled by DIRB, but after 90 days shifts to a system dominated by methanogens. In live experiments conditions are initially saturated with respect to dolomite (Ωdol = 19.40) and increase by two orders of magnitude (Ωdol = 2 330.77) only after the onset of methanogenesis, as judged by the increasing [CH4] and the detection of methanogenic micro-organisms. We identify ordered dolomite in live microcosms after 90 days via powder X-ray diffraction, while sterile controls precipitate only calcite. Scanning electron microscopy and transmitted electron microscopy demonstrate that the precipitated dolomite is closely associated with cell walls and putative extra-cellular polysaccharides. Headspace gas measurements and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis confirm the presence of both autotrophic and acetoclastic methanogens and exclude the presence of DIRB and sulfate-reducing bacteria after dolomite begins forming. Furthermore, the absence of dolomite in the controls and prior to methanogenesis confirm that methanogenic Archaea are necessary for the low-temperature precipitation of dolomite under the experimental conditions tested.