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Effects of copper on sulfate reduction in bacterial consortia enriched from metal-contaminated and uncontaminated sediments



—The effects of copper amendments on bacterial sulfate reduction in enrichment cultures obtained from two types of freshwater sediment were examined. Sulfate-reducing bacterial (SRB) consortia were enriched from pond sediment with no known history of metal contamination (uncontaminated) and from reservoir sediment with a well-documented history of metal contamination (metal-contaminated). The rates and extent of sulfate reduction in each sediment type in the absence of added copper were indistinguishable. With amendments of 0.8 mg/L copper, no inhibitory effects on sulfate reduction were observed in either consortium type. At 8.0 mg/L copper, activity in uncontaminated SRB consortia was significantly inhibited, as evidenced by a delay in and decreased rate of sulfate reduction; sulfidogenesis in metal-contaminated consortia was apparently unaffected. When the dissolved copper concentration was 30.0 mg/L, sulfidogenic activity in pond sediment consortia was completely inhibited. The rate of sulfate reduction temporarily decreased in the metal-contaminated enrichments but recovered after a short time. In active microcosms, copper was precipitated as CuS. The results of this study suggest that SRB from metal-contaminated environments have a markedly higher metal tolerance than those enriched from uncontaminated environments. The most significant inference from this work is that metal sulfide formation alone does not explain observed differences in metal tolerance between SRB consortia enriched from uncontaminated sediments and those that are derived from metal-contaminated sediments.