Tungsten effects on microbial community structure and activity in a soil

Tungsten, once deposited onto a soil as a result of private, industrial, and military activities, may persist as tungstate anion or, via polymerization, as a variety of poly-tungstate species, each with varying solubility and soil sorption characteristics. In this study, the impact of weathered tungsten on a soil microbial community was measured. Fatty acid analyses indicated that weathered tungsten at 2500 mg kg–1 was associated with a significant increase in microbial biomass and that concentrations up to 6500 mg kg–1 did not result in a significant decrease in measured biomass, relative to the control. Analysis of cellular fatty acids also identified significant microbial community shifts between 0 and 325, 1300 and 2600, and 3900 and 6500 mg W kg–1 soil. In general, the positive effect of tungsten on microbial biomass coincided with an increase in Gram-negative bacterial fatty acids, whereas fatty acids indicative of actinomycetes and Gram-positive bacteria were more abundant at the highest soil tungsten concentrations. The weathered tungsten also inhibited N2 fixing activity of a free living diazotroph at 1300 mg W kg–1 soil. These results indicate that tungsten in soil can alter both the structure and the function of an indigenous soil microbial community.

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