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Hydrogeologic parameters affecting vadose zone microbial distributions

Hydrogeologic parameters affecting vadose zone microbial distributions

Geomicrobiology Journal 9(4): 197-216

The vadose zone and its contaminant-attenuating processes are physically interposed between surface contamination and groundwater supplies. Given the potential role of microorganisms in mediating vadose-zone chemical processes, it is vital to understand vadose microbial distributions and factors controlling those distributions. Vadose and shallow saturated zone sediments obtained from cores drilled to approximately 8 m below the surface at two hydrogeologically contrasting sites, named Dalmeny and Washington State University (WSU), were examined for culturable heterotrophic bacteria, total organic carbon (TOC), and sediment texture. Porewater elutions were analyzed for dissolved organic carbon, sulfate, and inorganic nitrogen species. Numbers of cultured bacteria (103-107 g-1) generally decreased with depth at both sites. The TOC decreased uniformly with depth at WSU where soil processes are the sole carbon source; at Dalmeny, where both soil and kerogen carbon are presnt, TOC was higher and relatively constant with depth. Numbers of distinct colony types at Dalmeny did not decline below the solum. Bacteria at Dalmeny were more numerous, exhibited greater number of colony types, and were metabolically more flexible than those at WSU. The smooth decline of numbers with depth at WSU paralleled and may be caused by the TOC decline with distance from a solum source. Sediment permeability and pore-water flux did not control bulk populations as suggested in previous studies; this may be explained by bacterial residence on fracture surfaces in low-permeability materials. Psychrotolerant organisms did not appear to be as abundant as mean ambient temperatures might suggest.

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Accession: 007412935

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DOI: 10.1080/01490459109385999

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