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

Lingling Wu*, Andrew D. Jacobson, Martina Hausner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


This study used batch reactors to characterize the mechanisms and rates of elemental release (Al, Ca, K, Mg, Na, F, Fe, P, Sr, and Si) during interaction of a single bacterial species (Burkholderia fungorum) with granite at T = 28 °C for 35 days. The objective was to evaluate how actively metabolizing heterotrophic bacteria might influence granite weathering on the continents. We supplied glucose as a C source, either NH4 or NO3 as N sources, and either dissolved PO4 or trace apatite in granite as P sources. Cell growth occurred under all experimental conditions. However, solution pH decreased from ∼7 to 4 in NH4-bearing reactors, whereas pH remained near-neutral in NO3-bearing reactors. Measurements of dissolved CO2 and gluconate together with mass-balances for cell growth suggest that pH lowering in NH4-bearing reactors resulted from gluconic acid release and H+ extrusion during NH4 uptake. In NO3-bearing reactors, B. fungormum likely produced gluconic acid and consumed H+ simultaneously during NO3 utilization. Over the entire 35-day period, NH4-bearing biotic reactors yielded the highest release rates for all elements considered. However, chemical analyses of biomass show that bacteria scavenged Na, P, and Sr during growth. Abiotic control reactors followed different reaction paths and experienced much lower elemental release rates compared to biotic reactors. Because release rates inversely correlate with pH, we conclude that proton-promoted dissolution was the dominant reaction mechanism. Solute speciation modeling indicates that formation of Al-F and Fe-F complexes in biotic reactors may have enhanced mineral solubilities and release rates by lowering Al and Fe activities. Mass-balances further reveal that Ca-bearing trace phases (calcite, fluorite, and fluorapatite) provided most of the dissolved Ca, whereas more abundant phases (plagioclase) contributed negligible amounts. Our findings imply that during the incipient stages of granite weathering, heterotrophic bacteria utilizing glucose and NH4 only moderately elevate silicate weathering reactions that consume atmospheric CO2. However, by enhancing the dissolution of non-silicate, Ca-bearing trace minerals, they could contribute to high Ca/Na ratios commonly observed in granitic watersheds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1076-1095
Number of pages20
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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