Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 100, Issue 7, pp 3347–3360 | Cite as

Comparison of bacterial and archaeal communities in depth-resolved zones in an LNAPL body

  • Maria Irianni-Renno
  • Daria Akhbari
  • Mitchell R. Olson
  • Adam P. Byrne
  • Emilie Lefèvre
  • Julio Zimbron
  • Mark Lyverse
  • Thomas C. Sale
  • Susan K. De LongEmail author
Environmental biotechnology


Advances in our understanding of the microbial ecology at sites impacted by light non-aqueous phase liquids (LNAPLs) are needed to drive development of optimized bioremediation technologies, support longevity models, and develop culture-independent molecular tools. In this study, depth-resolved characterization of geochemical parameters and microbial communities was conducted for a shallow hydrocarbon-impacted aquifer. Four distinct zones were identified based on microbial community structure and geochemical data: (i) an aerobic, low-contaminant mass zone at the top of the vadose zone; (ii) a moderate to high-contaminant mass, low-oxygen to anaerobic transition zone in the middle of the vadose zone; (iii) an anaerobic, high-contaminant mass zone spanning the bottom of the vadose zone and saturated zone; and (iv) an anaerobic, low-contaminant mass zone below the LNAPL body. Evidence suggested that hydrocarbon degradation is mediated by syntrophic fermenters and methanogens in zone III. Upward flux of methane likely contributes to promoting anaerobic conditions in zone II by limiting downward flux of oxygen as methane and oxygen fronts converge at the top of this zone. Observed sulfate gradients and microbial communities suggested that sulfate reduction and methanogenesis both contribute to hydrocarbon degradation in zone IV. Pyrosequencing revealed that Syntrophus- and Methanosaeta-related species dominate bacterial and archaeal communities, respectively, in the LNAPL body below the water table. Observed phylotypes were linked with in situ anaerobic hydrocarbon degradation in LNAPL-impacted soils.


Biodegradation LNAPL Petroleum hydrocarbons Microbial communities Pyrosequencing 



Funding for this work was provided by Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and the National Science Foundation via an Alliance for the Graduate Education and Professoriate (AGEP) fellowship awarded to M. Irianni - Renno. The authors would like to thank site consultants from TriHydro Inc., Alysha Hakala, Thomas Gardner, Stephanie Whitfield, Shawn Harshman, and Ben McAlexander, for their technical support in the field.

Compliance with ethical standards

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


This study was funded by Chevron and Exxon Mobil and by the US National Science Foundation via an Alliance for the Graduate Education and Professoriate (AGEP) fellowship awarded to M. Irianni - Renno.

Conflict of interest

M. Irianni - Renno declares she has no conflict of interest. D. Akhbari declares he has no conflict of interest. M.R. Olson declares he has no conflict of interest. A.P. Byrne declares he has no conflict of interest. E. Lefevre declares she has no conflict of interest. J. Zimbron declares he has no conflict of interest. M. Lyverse declares he has no conflict of interest. T.C. Sale declares he has no conflict of interest. S.K. De Long declares she has no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

253_2015_7106_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.8 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1.76 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Irianni-Renno
    • 2
  • Daria Akhbari
    • 2
    • 4
  • Mitchell R. Olson
    • 2
    • 5
  • Adam P. Byrne
    • 2
    • 6
  • Emilie Lefèvre
    • 2
    • 7
  • Julio Zimbron
    • 2
  • Mark Lyverse
    • 3
  • Thomas C. Sale
    • 2
  • Susan K. De Long
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Chevron Energy Technology CompanySan RamonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of GeosciencesUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  5. 5.Trihydro CorporationFort CollinsUSA
  6. 6.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  7. 7.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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