Microbial Control of Silicate Weathering in Organic-Rich Ground Water

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Science  09 Oct 1992:
Vol. 258, Issue 5080, pp. 278-281
DOI: 10.1126/science.258.5080.278


An in situ microcosm study of the influence of surface-adhering bacteria on silicate diagenesis in a shallow petroleum-contaminated aquifer showed that minerals were colonized by indigenous bacteria and chemically weathered at a rate faster than theoretically predicted. Feldspar and quartz fragments were placed in anoxic, organic-rich ground water, left for 14 months, recovered, and compared to unreacted controls with scanning electron microscopy. Ground-water geochemistry was characterized before and after the experiment. Localized mineral etching probably occurred in a reaction zone at the bacteria-mineral interface where high concentrations of organic acids, formed by bacteria during metabolism of hydrocarbon, selectively mobilized silica and aluminum from the mineral surface.