Iron biogeochemistry and associated greenhouse gas evolution in a forested subtropical Australian coastal catchment : Poona Creek, Southeast Queensland

Lin, Chaofeng (2010) Iron biogeochemistry and associated greenhouse gas evolution in a forested subtropical Australian coastal catchment : Poona Creek, Southeast Queensland. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Iron (Fe) is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Excess Fe mobilization from terrestrial into aquatic systems is of concern for deterioration of water quality via biofouling and nuisance algal blooms in coastal and marine systems. Substantial Fe dissolution and transport involve alternate Fe(II) oxidation followed by Fe(III) reduction, with a diversity of Bacteria and Archaea acting as the key catalyst. Microbially-mediated Fe cycling is of global significance with regard to cycles of carbon (C), sulfur (S) and manganese (Mn). However, knowledge regarding microbial Fe cycling in circumneutral-pH habitats that prevail on Earth has been lacking until recently. In particular, little is known regarding microbial function in Fe cycling and associated Fe mobilization and greenhouse (CO2 and CH4, GHG) evolution in subtropical Australian coastal systems where microbial response to ambient variations such as seasonal flooding and land use changes is of concern. Using the plantation-forested Poona Creek catchment on the Fraser Coast of Southeast Queensland (SEQ), this research aimed to 1) study Fe cycling-associated bacterial populations in diverse terrestrial and aquatic habitats of a representative subtropical coastal circumneutral-pH (4–7) ecosystem; and 2) assess potential impacts of Pinus plantation forestry practices on microbially-mediated Fe mobilization, organic C mineralization and associated GHG evolution in coastal SEQ. A combination of wet-chemical extraction, undisturbed core microcosm, laboratory bacterial cultivation, microscopy and 16S rRNA-based molecular phylogenetic techniques were employed. The study area consisted primarily of loamy sands, with low organic C and dissolved nutrients. Total reactive Fe was abundant and evenly distributed within soil 0–30 cm profiles. Organic complexation primarily controlled Fe bioavailability and forms in well-drained plantation soils and water-logged, native riparian soils, whereas tidal flushing exerted a strong “seawater effect” in estuarine locations and formed a large proportion of inorganic Fe(III) complexes. There was a lack of Fe(II) sources across the catchment terrestrial system. Mature, first-rotation plantation clear-felling and second-rotation replanting significantly decreased organic matter and poorly crystalline Fe in well-drained soils, although variations in labile soil organic C fractions (dissolved organic C, DOC; and microbial biomass C, MBC) were minor. Both well-drained plantation soils and water-logged, native-vegetation soils were inhabited by a variety of cultivable, chemotrophic bacterial populations capable of C, Fe, S and Mn metabolism via lithotrophic or heterotrophic, (micro)aerobic or anaerobic pathways. Neutrophilic Fe(III)-reducing bacteria (FeRB) were most abundant, followed by aerobic, heterotrophic bacteria (heterotrophic plate count, HPC). Despite an abundance of FeRB, cultivable Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) were absent in associated soils. A lack of links between cultivable Fe, S or Mn bacterial densities and relevant chemical measurements (except for HPC correlated with DOC) was likely due to complex biogeochemical interactions. Neither did variations in cultivable bacterial densities correlate with plantation forestry practices, despite total cultivable bacterial densities being significantly lower in estuarine soils when compared with well-drained plantation soils and water-logged, riparian native-vegetation soils. Given that bacterial Fe(III) reduction is the primary mechanism of Fe oxide dissolution in soils upon saturation, associated Fe mobilization involved several abiotic and biological processes. Abiotic oxidation of dissolved Fe(II) by Mn appeared to control Fe transport and inhibit Fe dissolution from mature, first-rotation plantation soils post-saturation. Such an effect was not observed in clear-felled and replanted soils associated with low SOM and potentially low Mn reactivity. Associated GHG evolution post-saturation mainly involved variable CO2 emissions, with low, but consistently increasing CH4 effluxes in mature, first-rotation plantation soil only. In comparison, water-logged soils in the riparian native-vegetation buffer zone functioned as an important GHG source, with high potentials for Fe mobilization and GHG, particularly CH4 emissions in riparian loam soils associated with high clay and crystalline Fe fractions. Active Fe–C cycling was unlikely to occur in lower-catchment estuarine soils associated with low cultivable bacterial densities and GHG effluxes. As a key component of bacterial Fe cycling, neutrophilic FeOB widely occurred in diverse aquatic, but not terrestrial, habitats of the catchment study area. Stalked and sheathed FeOB resembling Gallionella and Leptothrix were limited to microbial mat material deposited in surface fresh waters associated with a circumneutral-pH seep, and clay-rich soil within riparian buffer zones. Unicellular, Sideroxydans-related FeOB (96% sequence identity) were ubiquitous in surface and subsurface freshwater environments, with highest abundance in estuary-adjacent shallow coastal groundwater water associated with redox transition. The abundance of dissolved C and Fe in the groundwater-dependent system was associated with high numbers of cultivable anaerobic, heterotrophic FeRB, microaerophilic, putatively lithotrophic FeOB and aerobic, heterotrophic bacteria. This research represents the first study of microbial Fe cycling in diverse circumneutral-pH environments (terrestrial–aquatic, freshwater–estuarine, surface–subsurface) of a subtropical coastal ecosystem. It also represents the first study of its kind in the southern hemisphere. This work highlights the significance of bacterial Fe(III) reduction in terrestrial, and bacterial Fe(II) oxidation in aquatic catchment Fe cycling. Results indicate the risk of promotion of Fe mobilization due to plantation clear-felling and replanting, and GHG emissions associated with seasonal water-logging. Additional significant outcomes were also achieved. The first direct evidence for multiple biomineralization patterns of neutrophilic, microaerophilic, unicellular FeOB was presented. A putatively pure culture, which represents the first cultivable neutrophilic FeOB from the southern hemisphere, was obtained as representative FeOB ubiquitous in diverse catchment aquatic habitats.

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ID Code: 47072
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Smith, James, Cox, Malcolm, Grace, Peter, & Larsen, Eloise
Keywords: Pinus plantation, clear-fell harvesting, replanting, soil organic C, iron mobilization, organic matter mineralization, greenhouse gas evolution, methanogenesis, bacterial iron cycling, neutrophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria, Gallionella, Sideroxydans, biomineralization, coastal catchment, subtropical Australia
Divisions: Past > Schools > Biogeoscience
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 17 Nov 2011 04:52
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2012 14:10

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