Saline mine-water alters the structure and function of prokaryote communities in shallow groundwater below a tropical stream

Lisa Chandler, Andrew J. Harford, Grant C. Hose, Chris L. Humphrey, Anthony Chariton, Paul Greenfield, Jenny Davis

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    Abstract

    Bacteria and archaea (prokaryotes) are vital components for maintaining healthy function of groundwater ecosystems. The prokaryotic community composition and associated putative functional processes were examined in a shallow sandy aquifer in a wet-dry tropical environment. The aquifer had a contaminated gradient of saline mine-water, which primarily consisted of elevated magnesium (Mg2+) and sulfate (SO42−), although other major ions and trace metals were also present. Groundwaters were sampled from piezometers, approximately 2 m in depth, located in the creek channel upstream and downstream of the mine-water influence. Sampling occurred during the dry-season when only subsurface water flow was present. Next generation sequencing was used to analyse the prokaryote assemblages using 16S rDNA and metabolic functions were predicted with FAPROTAX. Significant changes in community composition and functional processes were observed with exposure to mine-waters. Communities in the exposed sites had significantly lower relative abundance of methanotrophs such as Methylococcaceae and methanogens (Methanobacteriaceae), but higher abundance in Nitrososphaeraceae, associated with nitrification, indicating potentially important changes in the biogeochemistry of the exposed sites. The changes were most strongly correlated with concentrations of SO42−, Mg2+ and Na+. This knowledge allows an assessment of the risk of mine-water contamination to groundwater ecosystem function and aids mine-water management.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number117318
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalEnvironmental Pollution
    Volume284
    Early online date12 May 2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

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