Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a major environmental problem affecting tens of thousands of kilometers of waterways worldwide. Passive bioremediation of AMD relies on microbial communities to oxidize and remove iron from the system; however, iron oxidation rates in AMD environments are highly variable among sites. At Scalp Level Run (Cambria County, PA), first-order iron oxidation rates are 10 times greater than at other coal-associated iron mounds in the Appalachians. We examined the bacterial community at Scalp Level Run to determine whether a unique community is responsible for the rapid iron oxidation rate. Despite strong geochemical gradients, including a >10-fold change in the concentration of ferrous iron from 57.3 mg/liter at the emergence to 2.5 mg/liter at the base of the coal tailings pile, the bacterial community composition was nearly constant with distance from the spring outflow. Scalp Level Run contains many of the same taxa present in other AMD sites, but the community is dominated by two strains of Ferrovum myxofaciens, a species that is associated with high rates of Fe(II) oxidation in laboratory studies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology