High iron and eutrophic conditions are reported as environmental factors leading to accelerated low-water corrosion, an enhanced form of near-shore microbial induced corrosion. To explore this hypothesis, we deployed flow-through colonization systems in laboratory-based aquarium tanks under a continuous flow of surface seawater from Santa Catalina Island, CA, USA, for periods of 2 and 6 months. Substrates consisted of mild steel – a major constituent of maritime infrastructure – and the naturally occurring iron sulfide mineral pyrite. Four conditions were tested: free-venting “high-flux” conditions; a “stagnant” condition; an “active” flow-through condition with seawater slowly pumped over the substrates; and an “enrichment” condition where the slow pumping of seawater was supplemented with nutrient rich medium. Electron microscopy analyses of the 2-month high flux incubations document coating of substrates with “twisted stalks,” resembling iron oxyhydroxide bioprecipitates made by marine neutrophilic Fe-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB). Six-month incubations exhibit increased biofilm and substrate corrosion in the active flow and nutrient enriched conditions relative to the stagnant condition. A scarcity of twisted stalks was observed for all 6 month slow-flow conditions compared to the high-flux condition, which may be attributable to oxygen concentrations in the slow-flux conditions being prohibitively low for sustained growth of stalk-producing bacteria. All substrates developed microbial communities reflective of the original seawater input, as based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Deltaproteobacteria sequences increased in relative abundance in the active flow and nutrient enrichment conditions, whereas Gammaproteobacteria sequences were relatively more abundant in the stagnant condition. These results indicate that (i) high-flux incubations with higher oxygen availability favor the development of biofilms with twisted stalks resembling those of marine neutrophilic FeOB and (ii) long-term nutrient stimulation results in substrate corrosion and biofilms with different bacterial community composition and structure relative to stagnant and non-nutritionally enhanced incubations. Similar microbial succession scenarios, involving increases in nutritional input leading to the proliferation of anaerobic iron and sulfur-cycling guilds, may occur at the nearby Port of Los Angeles and cause potential damage to maritime port infrastructure.
Phase separation is a ubiquitous process in seafloor hydrothermal vents, creating a large range of salinities. Toxic elements (e.g., arsenic) partition into the vapor phase, and thus can be enriched in both high and low salinity fluids. However, investigations of microbial diversity at sites associated with phase separation are rare. We evaluated prokaryotic diversity in arsenic-rich shallow-sea vents off Milos Island (Greece) by comparative analysis of 16S rRNA clone sequences from two vent sites with similar pH and temperature but marked differences in salinity. Clone sequences were also obtained for aioA-like functional genes (AFGs). Bacteria in the surface sediments (0–1.5 cm) at the high salinity site consisted of mainly Epsilonproteobacteria (Arcobacter sp.), which transitioned to almost exclusively Firmicutes (Bacillus sp.) at ~10 cm depth. However, the low salinity site consisted of Bacteroidetes (Flavobacteria) in the surface and Epsilonproteobacteria (Arcobacter sp.) at ~10 cm depth. Archaea in the high salinity surface sediments were dominated by the orders Archaeoglobales and Thermococcales, transitioning to Thermoproteales and Desulfurococcales (Staphylothermus sp.) in the deeper sediments. In contrast, the low salinity site was dominated by Thermoplasmatales in the surface and Thermoproteales at depth. Similarities in gas and redox chemistry suggest that salinity and/or arsenic concentrations may select for microbial communities that can tolerate these parameters. Many of the archaeal 16S rRNA sequences contained inserts, possibly introns, including members of the Euryarchaeota. Clones containing AFGs affiliated with either Alpha- or Betaproteobacteria, although most were only distantly related to published representatives. Most clones (89%) originated from the deeper layer of the low salinity, highest arsenic site. This is the only sample with overlap in 16S rRNA data, suggesting arsenotrophy as an important metabolism in similar environments.