Acid-tolerant microaerophilic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria promote Fe(III)-accumulation in a fen.
The ecological importance of Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) at circumneutral pH is often masked in the presence of O(2) where rapid chemical oxidation of Fe(II) predominates. This study addresses the abundance, diversity and activity of microaerophilic FeOB in an acidic fen (pH ∼ 5) located in northern Bavaria, Germany. Mean O(2) penetration depth reached 16 cm where the highest dissolved Fe(II) concentrations (up to 140 µM) were present in soil water. Acid-tolerant FeOB cultivated in gradient tubes were most abundant (10(6) cells g(-1) peat) at the 10-20 cm depth interval. A stable enrichment culture was active at up to 29% O(2) saturation and Fe(III) accumulated 1.6 times faster than in abiotic controls. An acid-tolerant, microaerophilic isolate (strain CL21) was obtained which was closely related to the neutrophilic, lithoautotrophic FeOB Sideroxydans lithotrophicus strain LD-1. CL21 oxidized Fe(II) between pH 4 and 6.0, and produced nanoscale-goethites with a clearly lower mean coherence length (7 nm) perpendicular to the (110) plane than those formed abiotically (10 nm). Our results suggest that an acid-tolerant population of FeOB is thriving at redox interfaces formed by diffusion-limited O(2) transport in acidic peatlands. Furthermore, this well-adapted population is successfully competing with chemical oxidation and thereby playing an important role in the microbial iron cycle.