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Environ Microbiol. 2002 Nov;4(11):764-9.

Recovery of novel bacterial diversity from a forested wetland impacted by reject coal.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2605, USA.


Sulphide mineral mining together with improperly contained sulphur-rich coal represents a significant environmental problem caused by leaching of toxic material. The Savannah River Site's D-area harbours a 22-year-old exposed reject coal pile (RCP) from which acidic, metal rich, saline runoff has impacted an adjacent forested wetland. In order to assess the bacterial community composition of this region, composite sediment samples were collected at three points along a contamination gradient (high, middle and no contamination) and processed for generation of bacterial and archaeal 16S rDNA clone libraries. Little sequence overlap occurred between the contaminated (RCP samples) and unimpacted sites, indicating that the majority of 16S rDNAs retrieved from the former represent organisms selected by the acidic runoff. Archaeal diversity within the RCP samples consisted mainly of sequences related to the genus Thermoplasma and to sequences of a novel type. Bacterial RCP libraries contained 16S rRNA genes related to isolates (Acidiphilium sp., Acidobacterium capsulatum, Ferromicrobium acidophilium and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans) and environmental clones previously retrieved from acidic habitats, including ones phylogenetically associated with organisms capable of sulphur and iron metabolism. These libraries also exhibited particularly novel 16S rDNA types not retrieved from other acid mine drainage habitats, indicating that significant diversity remains to be detected in acid mine drainage-type systems.

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