, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 151-164
Date: 27 Feb 2004

Distribution, diversity and activity of microorganisms in the hyper-alkaline spring waters of Maqarin in Jordan

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The hyper-alkaline, high-Ca2+ springs of Maqarin, Jordan, were investigated as an analogue for various microbial processes at the extremely high pH generated by cement and concrete in some underground radioactive waste repositories. Leaching of metamorphic, cementitious phases in Maqarin has produced current, hyper-alkaline groundwater with a maximum pH of 12.9. Six consecutive expeditions were undertaken to the area during 1994–2000. The total number of microorganisms in the alkaline waters was 103–105 cells/ml. Analysis of the 16S-ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) diversity revealed microorganisms mainly belonging to the Proteobacteria. Obvious similarities between the obtained sequences and sequences from other alkaline sites could not be found. Numerous combinations of culture media compositions were inoculated with spring, seepage and groundwaters and incubated under aerobic and anaerobic conditions with various carbon sources. Assimilation studies were performed using identical radio-labeled carbon sources. Glucose seemed to be the preferred carbon source for assimilation, followed by acetate, lactate, and leucine. The results demonstrate that microorganisms from the hyper-alkaline springs of Maqarin could grow and be metabolically active under aerobic and anaerobic hyper-alkaline conditions. However, the growth and activity found were not vigorous; instead, slow growth, low numbers, and a generally low metabolic activity were found. This suggests that microbial activity will be low during the hyper-alkaline phase of cementitious repositories.

Communicated by W.D. Grant