Abstract

Sulfate reduction was measured with the 35SO42− -tracer technique in slurries of sediment from Aarhus Bay, Denmark, where seasonal temperatures range from 0° to 15°C. The incubations were made at temperatures from 0°C to 80°C in temperature increments of 2°C to search for presence of psychrophilic, mesophilic and thermophilic sulfate-reducing bacteria. Detectable activity was initially only in the mesophilic range, but after a lag phase sulfate reduction by thermophilic sulfate-reducing bacteria were observed. No distinct activity of psychrophilic sulfate-reducing bacteria was detected. Time course experiments showed constant sulfate reduction rates at 4°C and 30°C, whereas the activity at 60°C increased exponentially after a lag period of one day. Thermophilic, endospore-forming sulfate-reducing bacteria, designated strain P60, were isolated and characterized as D Desulfotomaculum kuznetsovii. The temperature response of growth and respiration of strain P60 agreed well with the measured sulfate reduction at 50°–70°C. Bacteria similar to strain P60 could thus be responsible for the measured thermophilic activity. The viable population of thermophilic sulfate-reducing bacteria and the density of their spores was determined in most probable number (MPN) dilutions. The density was 2.8·104 cells·.g−1 fresh sediment, and the enumerations suggested that they were all present as spores. This result agrees well with the observed lag period in sulfate reduction above 50°C. No environment with temperatures supporting the growth of these thermophiles is known in the region around Aarhus Bay.

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