Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 65–71 | Cite as

Effects of heavy metal contamination and remediation on soil microbial communities in the vicinity of a zinc smelter as indicated by analysis of microbial community phospholipid fatty acid profiles

  • John J. KellyEmail author
  • Max M. Häggblom
  • Robert L. TateIII
Original Paper


Heavy metal contamination in an area immediately surrounding a zinc smelter has resulted in destruction of over 485 hectares of forest. The elevated levels of heavy metals in these soils have had significant impacts on the population size and overall activity of the soil microbial communities. Remediation of these soils has resulted in increases in indicators of biological activity and viable population size, which suggest recovery of the microbial populations. Questions remain as to how the metal contamination and subsequent remediation at this site have impacted the population structure of the soil microbial communities. In the current study, microbial communities from this site were analyzed by the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) procedure. Principal component analysis of the PLFA profiles indicated that there were differences in the profiles for soils with different levels of metal contamination, and that soils with higher levels of metal contamination showed decreases in indicator PLFAs for mycorrhizal fungi, Gram-positive bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes. PLFA profiles for remediated sites indicated that remediated soils showed increases in indicator PLFAs for fungi, actinomycetes, and Gram-positive bacteria, compared to unremediated metal contaminated soils. These data suggest a change in the population structure of the soil microbial communities resulting from metal contamination and a recovery of several microbial populations resulting from remediation.


Heavy metals Soil Remediation Microbial communities PLFA profiles 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • John J. Kelly
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Max M. Häggblom
    • 2
  • Robert L. TateIII
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, RutgersThe State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, RutgersState University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

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