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Dynamics of an Oligotrophic Bacterial Aquifer Community during Contact with a Groundwater Plume Contaminated with Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylenes: an In Situ Mesocosm Study

Hendrickx, Barbara, Dejonghe, Winnie, Boe̊nne, Wesley, Brennerova, Maria, Cernik, Miroslav, Lederer, Tomas, Bucheli-Witschel, Margarete, Bastiaens, Leen, Verstraete, Willy, Top, Eva M., Diels, Ludo, Springael, Dirk
Applied and environmental microbiology 2005 v.71 no.7 pp. 3815-3825
BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), benzene, toluene, xylene, groundwater contamination, aquifers, bacteria, species diversity, community ecology, ribosomal RNA, genes, gel electrophoresis, population dynamics, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, Czech Republic
An in situ mesocosm system was designed to monitor the in situ dynamics of the microbial community in polluted aquifers. The mesocosm system consists of a permeable membrane pocket filled with aquifer material and placed within a polypropylene holder, which is inserted below groundwater level in a monitoring well. After a specific time period, the microcosm is recovered from the well and its bacterial community is analyzed. Using this system, we examined the effect of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) contamination on the response of an aquifer bacterial community by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes and PCR detection of BTEX degradation genes. Mesocosms were filled with nonsterile or sterile aquifer material derived from an uncontaminated area and positioned in a well located in either the uncontaminated area or a nearby contaminated area. In the contaminated area, the bacterial community in the microcosms rapidly evolved into a stable community identical to that in the adjacent aquifer but different from that in the uncontaminated area. At the contaminated location, bacteria with tmoA- and xylM/xylE1-like BTEX catabolic genotypes colonized the aquifer, while at the uncontaminated location only tmoA-like genotypes were detected. The communities in the mesocosms and in the aquifer adjacent to the wells in the contaminated area consisted mainly of PROTEOBACTERIA: At the uncontaminated location, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria were found. Our results indicate that communities with long-term stability in their structures follow the contamination plume and rapidly colonize downstream areas upon contamination.