Watershed-Scale Fungal Communities in a Co-Contaminated System


The legacy of the Department of Energy’s former weapons production activities includes comingled plumes of uranium and very high levels of nitrate in groundwater and soils. At contaminated sites with high nitrate concentrations, anaerobic microbes are known to reduce the nitrate through metabolic respiration. In contrast, the role and importance of fungi, which are abundant in groundwater and soils and are also metal resistant and involved in biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nutrients and metals, is not well understood. To address this gap in understanding, a team of scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Florida State University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory used quantitative and semi-quantitative molecular techniques to characterize the abundance, distribution, and diversity of fungi in a nitrate and uranium contaminated watershed. The team found that members of the Ascomycota phylum dominated the watershed, and that the community composition varied as a function of the pH gradient. In addition, they discovered that one fungal species is able to reduce nitrate to nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.


Jasrotia, P., S. J. Green, A. Ganion, W. A. Overholt, O. Prakash, D. Wafula, D. Hubbard, D. B. Watson, C. W. Schadt, S. C. Brooks, and J. E. Kostka. 2014. “Watershed-Scale Fungal Community Characterization Along a pH Gradient in a Subsurface Environment Cocontaminated with Uranium and Nitrate,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 80(6), 1810-20. DOI:10.1128/AEM.03423-13.