Lithoautotrophic Microbial Ecosystems in Deep Basalt Aquifers

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Science  20 Oct 1995:
Vol. 270, Issue 5235, pp. 450-455
DOI: 10.1126/science.270.5235.450


Bacterial communities were detected in deep crystalline rock aquifers within the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRB). CRB ground waters contained up to 60 μM dissolved H2 and autotrophic microorganisms outnumbered heterotrophs. Stable carbon isotope measurements implied that autotrophic methanogenesis dominated this ecosystem and was coupled to the depletion of dissolved inorganic carbon. In laboratory experiments, H2, a potential energy source for bacteria, was produced by reactions between crushed basalt and anaerobic water. Microcosms containing only crushed basalt and ground water supported microbial growth. These results suggest that the CRB contains a lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystem that is independent of photosynthetic primary production.

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