Spatial distribution of microbial populations and carbon cycle in the subsurface environment of the Horonobe area, Hokkaido, Japan

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Yuki Amano1, Kotaro Ise1, Motoki Terashima2, Yoshito Sasaki3, Hiroki Amamiya1 and Hideki Yoshikawa4, (1)JAEA Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Toki, Japan, (2)JAEA Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokai, Japan, (3)JAEA Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Fukushima, Japan, (4)JAEA Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokyo, Japan
Microorganisms are widely distributed in the subsurface environments. However, the distribution, role and rate of metabolisms, and the source of their activity are not well known. In this study, we investigated deep groundwater samples from sedimentary rocks, containing saturated methane and CO2, using boreholes at the Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory (URL), northern Hokkaido, Japan. The hydrochemical conditions of groundwaters, such as in-situ water pressure, temperature, electric conductivity, pH, redox potential, were monitored without degassing at multiple intervals along the borehole. Groundwater samples were taken periodically and chemical composition was analyzed using ICP-MS, etc. Cell counts were in the range of 103 to 105 cells ml-1. Molecular analyses revealed the spatial distribution and heterogeneity of the microbial population. Abundant methanogens were detected in the groundwater, and 80% of them were related to either Methanoregula boonei or Methanobacterium flexile that can utilize H2/CO2 by methanogenesis. Phylotypes clustered within the phylum Firmicutes, beta-Proteobacteria, delta-Proteobacteria and candidate division TM7 were dominant in the groundwater samples. Laboratory experiments using a culture technique showed that humic substances purified from the groundwater at Horonobe area appear to be degraded by microorganisms. Our results suggest that microbial spatial distributions in the subsurface environment were correlated closely with geochemical conditions, such as redox condition and carbon sources. In addition, it is inferred that humic substances are one of the important carbon sources for the subsurface microbial redox processes in the environment.

This study was partly funded by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan.