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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2014;21(11):6824-35. doi: 10.1007/s11356-013-1907-3. Epub 2013 Jun 18.

Bioprospecting at former mining sites across Europe: microbial and functional diversity in soils.

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Italian National Agency for New technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, via Anguillarese, 301-00123, Rome, Italy.


The planetary importance of microbial function requires urgently that our knowledge and our exploitation ability is extended, therefore every occasion of bioprospecting is welcome. In this work, bioprospecting is presented from the perspective of the UMBRELLA project, whose main goal was to develop an integral approach for remediation of soil influenced by mining activity, by using microorganisms in association with plants. Accordingly, this work relies on the cultivable fraction of microbial biodiversity, native to six mining sites across Europe, different for geographical, climatic and geochemical characteristics but similar for suffering from chronic stress. The comparative analysis of the soil functional diversity, resulting from the metabolic profiling at community level (BIOLOG ECOPlates) and confirmed by the multivariate analysis, separates the six soils in two clusters, identifying soils characterised by low functional diversity and low metabolic activity. The microbial biodiversity falls into four major bacterial phyla: Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, including a total of 47 genera and 99 species. In each soil, despite harsh conditions, metabolic capacity of nitrogen fixation and plant growth promotion were quite widespread, and most of the strains showed multiple resistances to heavy metals. At species-level, Shannon's index (alpha diversity) and Sørensen's Similarity (beta diversity) indicates the sites are indeed diverse. Multivariate analysis of soil chemical factors and biodiversity identifies for each soil well-discriminating chemical factors and species, supporting the assumption that cultured biodiversity from the six mining sites presents, at phylum level, a convergence correlated to soil factors rather than to geographical factors while, at species level, reflects a remarkable local characterisation.

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