Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Abstract By adding sulfate in the form of solid gypsum, it was possible to transform in situ a predominantly methanogenic sediment ecosystem into a sulfate-reducing one. The concentrations of sulfate, sulfide, methane, acetate, propionate, soluble iron, and manganese were determined in the porewater before and after the transition. Although sulfate was no longer limiting, acetate and propionate continued to accumulate and reached much higher concentrations than under sulfate-limited conditions. Metabolic activities of fermenting bacteria and of sulfate reducers, which belong to the group that incompletely oxidizes organic material, might be responsible for the increased production of volatile fatty acids. The elevated concentrations of soluble Fe(II)2+ and Mn(II)2+ observed in the porewater stem from iron and manganese compounds which may be reduced chemically by hydrogen sulfide and other microbially produced reducing agents or directly through increased activities of the iron and manganese reducing bacteria. In the horizon with high sulfate-reducing activities the methane concentrations in the porewater were lower than in non-stimulated sediment regions. The shape of the concentration depth profile indicates methane consumption through sulfate reducing processes. The in situ experiment demonstrates the response of a natural microbial ecosystem to fluctuations in the environmental conditions.
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