Characterization of elemental release during microbe-basalt interactions at T = 28 °C

Lingling Wu*, Andrew D. Jacobson, Hsin Chieh Chen, Martina Hausner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


This study used batch reactors to characterize the rates and mechanisms of elemental release during the interaction of a single bacterial species (Burkholderia fungorum) with Columbia River Flood Basalt at T = 28 °C for 36 days. We primarily examined the release of Ca, Mg, P, Si, and Sr under a variety of biotic and abiotic conditions with the aim of evaluating how actively metabolizing bacteria might influence basalt weathering on the continents. Four days after inoculating P-limited reactors (those lacking P in the growth medium), the concentration of viable planktonic cells increased from ∼104 to 108 CFU (Colony Forming Units)/mL, pH decreased from ∼7 to 4, and glucose decreased from ∼1200 to 0 μmol/L. Mass-balance and acid-base equilibria calculations suggest that the lowered pH resulted from either respired CO2, organic acids released during biomass synthesis, or H+ extrusion during NH4+ uptake. Between days 4 and 36, cell numbers remained constant at ∼108 CFU/mL and pH increased to ∼5. Purely abiotic control reactors as well as control reactors containing inert cells (∼108 CFU/mL) showed constant glucose concentrations, thus confirming the absence of biological activity in these experiments. The pH of all control reactors remained near-neutral, except for one experiment where the pH was initially adjusted to 4 but rapidly rose to 7 within 2 days. Over the entire 36 day period, P-limited reactors containing viable bacteria yielded the highest Ca, Mg, Si, and Sr release rates. Release rates inversely correlate with pH, indicating that proton-promoted dissolution was the dominant reaction mechanism. Both biotic and abiotic P-limited reactors displayed low P concentrations. Chemical analyses of bacteria collected at the end of the experiments, combined with mass-balances between the biological and fluid phases, demonstrate that the absence of dissolved P in the biotic reactors resulted from microbial P uptake. The only P source in the basalt is a small amount of apatite (∼1.2%), which occurs as needles within feldspar grains and glass. We therefore conclude that B. fungorum utilized apatite as a P source for biomass synthesis, which stimulated elemental release from coexisting mineral phases via pH lowering. The results of this study suggest that actively metabolizing bacteria have the potential to influence elemental release from basalt in continental settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2224-2239
Number of pages16
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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