Geomicrobiological features of ferruginous sediments from lake Towuti, Indonesia

Aurèle Vuillemin, André Friese, Mashal Alawi, Cynthia Henny, Sulung Nomosatryo, Dirk Wagner, Sean A. Crowe, Jens Kallmeyer

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27 Scopus citations


Lake Towuti is a tectonic basin, surrounded by ultramafic rocks. Lateritic soils form through weathering and deliver abundant iron (oxy)hydroxides but very little sulfate to the lake and its sediment. To characterize the sediment biogeochemistry, we collected cores at three sites with increasing water depth and decreasing bottom water oxygen concentrations. Microbial cell densities were highest at the shallow site-a feature we attribute to the availability of labile organic matter (OM) and the higher abundance of electron acceptors due to oxic bottom water conditions. At the two other sites, OM degradation and reduction processes below the oxycline led to partial electron acceptor depletion. Genetic information preserved in the sediment as extracellular DNA (eDNA) provided information on aerobic and anaerobic heterotrophs related to Nitrospirae, Chloroflexi, and Thermoplasmatales. These taxa apparently played a significant role in the degradation of sinking OM. However, eDNA concentrations rapidly decreased with core depth. Despite very low sulfate concentrations, sulfate-reducing bacteria were present and viable in sediments at all three sites, as confirmed by measurement of potential sulfate reduction rates. Microbial community fingerprinting supported the presence of taxa related to Deltaproteobacteria and Firmicutes with demonstrated capacity for iron and sulfate reduction. Concomitantly, sequences of Ruminococcaceae, Clostridiales, and Methanomicrobiales indicated potential for fermentative hydrogen and methane production. Such first insights into ferruginous sediments showed that microbial populations perform successive metabolisms related to sulfur, iron, and methane. In theory, iron reduction could reoxidize reduced sulfur compounds and desorb OM from iron minerals to allow remineralization to methane. Overall, we found that biogeochemical processes in the sediments can be linked to redox differences in the bottom waters of the three sites, like oxidant concentrations and the supply of labile OM. At the scale of the lacustrine record, our geomicrobiological study should provide a means to link the extant subsurface biosphere to past environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1007
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was financially and logistically supported by the ICDP priority program of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG Schwerpunktprogramm) through grants to JK (KA 2293/8-1) and AV (VU 94/1-1); the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF Grant P2GEP2_148621 to AV); the Helmholtz Center Potsdam, German Research Center for Geoscience (GFZ), and an NSERC Discovery grant (0487) to SC.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Vuillemin, Friese, Alawi, Henny, Nomosatryo, Wagner, Crowe and Kallmeyer.

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Bottom waters
  • Extracellular DNA
  • Iron reduction
  • Iron-rich sediment
  • Lake Towuti
  • Sedimentary microbes
  • Sulfate reduction

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • TDP


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