Microbial Ecology

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 33–53 | Cite as

Cyanobacterial Contribution to Travertine Deposition in the Hoyoux River System, Belgium

  • Julia Kleinteich
  • Stjepko Golubic
  • Igor S. Pessi
  • David Velázquez
  • Jean-Yves Storme
  • François Darchambeau
  • Alberto V. Borges
  • Philippe Compère
  • Gudrun Radtke
  • Seong-Joo Lee
  • Emmanuelle J. Javaux
  • Annick Wilmotte
Microbiology of Aquatic Systems


Travertine deposition is a landscape-forming process, usually building a series of calcareous barriers differentiating the river flow into a series of cascades and ponds. The process of carbonate precipitation is a complex relationship between biogenic and abiotic causative agents, involving adapted microbial assemblages but also requiring high levels of carbonate saturation, spontaneous degassing of carbon dioxide and slightly alkaline pH. We have analysed calcareous crusts and water chemistry from four sampling sites along the Hoyoux River and its Triffoy tributary (Belgium) in winter, spring, summer and autumn 2014. Different surface textures of travertine deposits correlated with particular microenvironments and were influenced by the local water flow. In all microenvironments, we have identified the cyanobacterium Phormidium incrustatum (Nägeli) Gomont as the organism primarily responsible for carbonate precipitation and travertine fabric by combining morphological analysis with molecular sequencing (16S rRNA gene and ITS, the Internal Transcribed Spacer fragments), targeting both field populations and cultures to exclude opportunistic microorganisms responding favourably to culture conditions. Several closely related cyanobacterial strains were cultured; however, only one proved identical with the sequences obtained from the field population by direct PCR. This strain was the dominant primary producer in the calcareous deposits under study and in similar streams in Europe. The dominance of one organism that had a demonstrated association with carbonate precipitation presented a valuable opportunity to study its function in construction, preservation and fossilisation potential of ambient temperature travertine deposits. These relationships were examined using scanning electron microscopy and Raman microspectroscopy.


Calcareous tufa Culture support Cyanobacteria rRNA operon sequencing Travertine deposition 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Kleinteich
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stjepko Golubic
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Igor S. Pessi
    • 1
  • David Velázquez
    • 1
    • 5
  • Jean-Yves Storme
    • 4
  • François Darchambeau
    • 6
  • Alberto V. Borges
    • 6
  • Philippe Compère
    • 7
  • Gudrun Radtke
    • 8
  • Seong-Joo Lee
    • 9
  • Emmanuelle J. Javaux
    • 4
  • Annick Wilmotte
    • 1
  1. 1.InBios Center for Protein EngineeringUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.Center for Applied GeosciencesUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Biological Science CenterBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Palaeobiogeology, Palaeobotany, Palaeopalynology, Department of Geology, UR Geology B18University of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  6. 6.Chemical Oceanography Unit, Institut de Physique (B5)University of LiegeLiègeBelgium
  7. 7.Department of Biology, Ecology and Evolution (BEE)/Centre of Aid for Research and Education in Microscopy (CAREM)University of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  8. 8.Hessisches Landesamt für Naturschutz, Umwelt und GeologieWiesbadenGermany
  9. 9.Department of GeologyKyungpook National UniversityDaeguSouth Korea

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