Distribution of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans: Implications for Generation of Acid Mine Drainage

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Science  06 Mar 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5356, pp. 1519-1522
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5356.1519

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Although Thiobacillus ferrooxidans andLeptospirillum ferrooxidans are widely considered to be the microorganisms that control the rate of generation of acid mine drainage, little is known about their natural distribution and abundance. Fluorescence in situ hybridization studies showed that at Iron Mountain, California, T. ferrooxidans occurs in peripheral slime-based communities (at pH over 1.3 and temperature under 30°C) but not in important subsurface acid-forming environments (pH 0.3 to 0.7, temperature 30° to 50°C). Leptospirillum ferrooxidans is abundant in slimes and as a planktonic organism in environments with lower pH. Thiobacillus ferrooxidansaffects the precipitation of ferric iron solids but plays a limited role in acid generation, and neither species controls direct catalysis at low pH at this site.

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