Chromium Isotope Behaviour During Aerobic Microbial Reduction Activities

Friday, 19 December 2014
Qiong Zhang, Ken Amor, Donald Porcelli and Ian Thompson, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Microbial activity is a very important, and possibly even the dominant, reduction mechanism for many metals in natural water systems. Isotope fractionations during microbial metal reduction can reflect one major mechanism in metal cycling in the environment, and isotopic signatures can be used to identify and quantify reduction processes during biogeochemical cycling in the present environment as well as in the past. There are many Cr (VI)-reducing bacteria that have been discovered and isolated from the environment, and Cr isotopes were found to be fractionated during microbial reduction processes. In this study, Cr reduction experiments have been undertaken to determine the conditions under which Cr is reduced and the corresponding isotope signals that are generated. The experiments have been done with a facultative bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens LB 300, and several parameters that have potential impact on reduction mechanisms have been investigated. Electron donors are important for bacteria growth and metabolism. One factor that can control the rate of Cr reduction is the nature of the electron donor. The results show that using citrate as an electron donor can stimulate bacteria reduction activity to a large extent; the reduction rate is much higher (15.10 mgˑL-1hour-1) compared with experiments using glucose (6.65 mgˑL-1ˑhour-1), acetate (4.88 mgˑL-1hour-1) or propionate (4.85 mgˑL-1hour-1) as electron donors. Groups with higher electron donor concentrations have higher reduction rates. Chromium is toxic, and when increasing Cr concentrations in the medium, the bacteria reduction rate is also higher, which reflects bacteria adapting to the toxic environment. In the natural environment, under different pH conditions, bacteria may metabolise in different ways. In our experiments with pH, bacteria performed better in reducing Cr (VI) when pH = 8, and there are no significant differences between groups with pH = 4 or pH = 6. To investigate this further, Cr isotope determinations will be presented, which are essential in better understanding bacterial reducing activities under different environmental conditions and can also provide important background information for interpreting Cr isotope fractionations in natural environment, and using Cr isotopes to identify reduction by microbial activity.