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Microbial activity in the subsurface environment of the Tono area and its relation to geochemical conditions - Study of the abundance and diversity of groundwater microorganisms -

Naganuma, Takeshi*; Iwatsuki, Teruki; Murakami, Yuki; Hama, Katsuhiro; Okamoto, Takuji*; Tanimoto, Daisuke*; Fujita, Yuka*; Watanabe, Fumiko*; Adachi, Nahomi*; Sato, Makoto*

The abundance and diversity of groundwater microorganisms was studied in the Tono area, central Japan. Total cell counts were estimated by epifluorescence microscopy. Cell viability, based on cell membrane integrity, respiration-based metabolism, and esterase activity was estimated to be from 0.001% to approximately 100% of the total counts. The distribution of microbial abundance wad related to a variety of environmental factors, including fracture numbers, hydrological, and geochemical conditions in the groundwater. In the groundwater, profiles of redox sensitive solutes such as sulphate and sulphide ions, abundance and viability of microbes, and sulphur isotope rations of sulphate ions suggest that microbial sulphate redution involving organic matter and subsequent pyrite precipiration are dominant redox reactions at the depths of the uranium ore body. Concentrations of both the sulphate and chloride increase with increasing depth. The dissoloved sulphate is surmised to have originated from dissolution of sulphate and sulphide minerals in a geologic marine formation precipitated in marine environments, in the upper part of the sedimentary rocks. Such a redox process in the water-mineral-microbe system is inferred to have continued from the time when the marine formation underwent uplift above sea-level, because sulphate-reducing bacteria can use sulphate ions dissolved in fresh water that infiltrates from the marine formation and organic matter located in the deeper sedimentary rocks. Calculations by using the sulphate-S contents of the rocks and the sulphate dissolution rate suggest that microbial sulphate redution alone could maintain sufficiently reducing conditions of preserve the uranium ore for several hundred thousand years, in the case where a hydrogeological system continues to exist without much change. On the other hand, iron-oxidizing/reducing bacteria seem to play an important role in iron redox cycling in the granite groundwater.

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