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FEMS Microbiology Ecology
Volume 44, Issue 2 , 15 May 2003, Pages 139-152
Copyright © 2003 Federation of European Microbiological Societies.
Published by Elsevier Science B.V.
Microbial communities in acid mine
Brett J. Baker and Jillian F. Banfield
Departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environment
Sciences Policy and Management, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Received 17 September 2002; revised 15 November 2002; accepted 31 December 2002. ; Available
online 31 January 2003.
The dissolution of sulfide minerals such as pyrite (FeS2), arsenopyrite (FeAsS), chalcopyrite
(CuFeS2), sphalerite (ZnS), and marcasite (FeS2) yields hot, sulfuric acid-rich solutions that
contain high concentrations of toxic metals. In locations where access of oxidants to sulfide
mineral surfaces is increased by mining, the resulting acid mine drainage (AMD) may
contaminate surrounding ecosystems. Communities of autotrophic and heterotrophic archaea
and bacteria catalyze iron and sulfur oxidation, thus may ultimately determine the rate of release
of metals and sulfur to the environment. AMD communities contain fewer prokaryotic lineages
than many other environments. However, it is notable that at least two archaeal and eight
bacterial divisions have representatives able to thrive under the extreme conditions typical of
AMD. AMD communities are characterized by a very limited number of distinct species,
probably due to the small number of metabolically beneficial reactions available. The
metabolisms that underpin thes