Microbial biodiversity in groundwater ecosystems


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Publication Date

March 2009


1. Groundwater ecosystems offer vast and complex habitats for diverse microbial communities. Here we review the current status of groundwater microbial biodiversity research with a focus on Bacteria and Archaea and on the prospects of modern techniques for enhancing our understanding of microbial biodiversity patterns and their relation to environmental conditions. 2. The enormous volume of the saturated terrestrial underground forms the largest habitat for microorganisms on earth. Up to 40% of prokaryotic biomass on earth is hidden within this terrestrial subsurface. Besides representing a globally important pool of carbon and nutrients in organisms, these communities harbour a degree of microbial diversity only marginally explored to date. 3. Although first observations of groundwater microbiota date back to Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in 1677, the systematic investigation of groundwater microbial biodiversity has gained momentum only within the last few decades. These investigations were initiated by an increasing awareness of the importance of aquifer microbiota for ecosystem services and functioning, including the provision of drinking water and the degradation of contaminants. 4. The development of sampling techniques suitable for microbiological investigations as well as the application of both cultivation‐based and molecular methods has yielded substantial insights into microbial communities in contaminated aquifers, whereas knowledge of microbial biodiversity in pristine habitats is still poor at present. 5. Several novel phylogenetic lineages have been described from groundwater habitats, but to date no clearly ‘endemic’ subsurface microbial phyla have been identified. The future will show if the rather low diversity generally found in pristine oligotrophic aquifers is a fact or just a result of low abundances and insufficient resolution of today’s methods. Refined approaches complemented by statistically rigorous applications of biodiversity estimates are urgently needed. 6. Factors identified to cont


Aquifer Contamination, Ecological Concepts, Functional Diversity, Microbial Biodiversity, Spatial And Temporal Heterogeneity

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Freshwater Biology, Vol. 54, no. 4 (2009-03-19).