The interdependence between geoelectrical signatures at underground petroleum plumes and the structures of subsurface microbial communities was investigated. For sediments contaminated with light non-aqueous-phase liquids, anomalous high conductivity values have been observed. Vertical changes in the geoelectrical properties of the sediments were concomitant with significant changes in the microbial community structures as determined by the construction and evaluation of 16S rRNA gene libraries. DNA sequencing of clones from four 16S rRNA gene libraries from different depths of a contaminated field site and two libraries from an uncontaminated background site revealed spatial heterogeneity in the microbial community structures. Correspondence analysis showed that the presence of distinct microbial populations, including the various hydrocarbon-degrading, syntrophic, sulfate-reducing, and dissimilatory-iron-reducing populations, was a contributing factor to the elevated geoelectrical measurements. Thus, through their growth and metabolic activities, microbial populations that have adapted to the use of petroleum as a carbon source can strongly influence their geophysical surroundings. Since changes in the geophysical properties of contaminated sediments parallel changes in the microbial community compositions, it is suggested that geoelectrical measurements can be a cost-efficient tool to guide microbiological sampling for microbial ecology studies during the monitoring of natural or engineered bioremediation processes.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Cloning; Contamination; DNA Sequences; Genes; Geophysics; RNA; Sediments; Geophysical Signatures; Light Non Aqueousphase Liquids; Microbial Community Structure; Underground Petroleum Plumes; Microbiology; Carbon; Hydrocarbon; Iron; Petroleum; Ribosome RNA; Sulfate; Bioremediation; Community Composition; Community Structure; DNA; Environmental Monitoring; Growth Rate; Metabolism; Microbial Community; Oil Pollution; Population Structure; Sediment Pollution; Article; Carbon Source; DNA Sequence; Gene Construct; Gene Library; Genetic Heterogeneity; Metabolic Activation; Microbial Activity; Microbial Growth; Microbial Population Dynamics; Microbiological Examination; Microflora; Nonhuman; Soil Pollution; Bacteria; Base Sequence; Cluster Analysis; DNA Primers; Ecosystem; Electric Conductivity; Gene Library; Geologic Sediments; Michigan; Molecular Sequence Data; Multivariate Analysis; Petroleum; Phylogeny; Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length; RNA, Ribosomal, 16S; Sequence Analysis, DNA

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2007 American Society for Microbiology, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2007

Included in

Geology Commons