Microbial Ecology

, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 333–345 | Cite as

Community Analysis of Plant Biomass-Degrading Microorganisms from Obsidian Pool, Yellowstone National Park

  • Tatiana A. Vishnivetskaya
  • Scott D. Hamilton-Brehm
  • Mircea Podar
  • Jennifer J. Mosher
  • Anthony V. Palumbo
  • Tommy J. Phelps
  • Martin Keller
  • James G. Elkins
Environmental Microbiology


The conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels can potentially be improved by employing robust microorganisms and enzymes that efficiently deconstruct plant polysaccharides at elevated temperatures. Many of the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) are surrounded by vegetation providing a source of allochthonic material to support heterotrophic microbial communities adapted to utilize plant biomass as a primary carbon and energy source. In this study, a well-known hot spring environment, Obsidian Pool (OBP), was examined for potential biomass-active microorganisms using cultivation-independent and enrichment techniques. Analysis of 33,684 archaeal and 43,784 bacterial quality-filtered 16S rRNA gene pyrosequences revealed that archaeal diversity in the main pool was higher than bacterial; however, in the vegetated area, overall bacterial diversity was significantly higher. Of notable interest was a flooded depression adjacent to OBP supporting a stand of Juncus tweedyi, a heat-tolerant rush commonly found growing near geothermal features in YNP. The microbial community from heated sediments surrounding the plants was enriched in members of the Firmicutes including potentially (hemi)cellulolytic bacteria from the genera Clostridium, Anaerobacter, Caloramator, Caldicellulosiruptor, and Thermoanaerobacter. Enrichment cultures containing model and real biomass substrates were established at a wide range of temperatures (55–85 °C). Microbial activity was observed up to 80 °C on all substrates including Avicel, xylan, switchgrass, and Populus sp. Independent of substrate, Caloramator was enriched at lower (<65 °C) temperatures while highly active cellulolytic bacteria Caldicellulosiruptor were dominant at high (>65 °C) temperatures.


Thermophiles Plant biomass utilization Bioenergy Microbial communities Yellowstone National Park Extremophiles. 



We thank the National Park Service and especially Christie Hendrix for coordinating and allowing sampling under permit #YELL-2008-SCI-5714. Heidi Anderson at the Yellowstone Center for Resources helped with plant species identification. We kindly thank Zamin Koo Yang for the assistance with pyrosequencing and Xiangping Yin for ICP analysis. Christopher W. Schadt provided helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), which is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary Table S1 (DOCX 37 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tatiana A. Vishnivetskaya
    • 1
    • 2
  • Scott D. Hamilton-Brehm
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mircea Podar
    • 1
  • Jennifer J. Mosher
    • 1
    • 4
  • Anthony V. Palumbo
    • 1
  • Tommy J. Phelps
    • 1
  • Martin Keller
    • 1
  • James G. Elkins
    • 1
  1. 1.BioEnergy Science Center, Biosciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Center for Environmental BiotechnologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Division of Earth and Ecosystem SciencesDesert Research InstituteLas VegasUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesMarshall UniversityHuntingtonUSA

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