Characterization of the bacterial communities on recent Icelandic volcanic deposits of different ages

Bo Byloos, Pieter Monsieurs, Mohamed Mysara, Natalie Leys, Nico Boon, Rob Van Houdt

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BACKGROUND: Basalt is the most common igneous rock on the Earth's surface covering. Basalt-associated microorganisms drive the cycling and sequestration of different elements such as nitrogen, carbon and other nutrients, which facilitate subsequent pioneer and plant development, impacting long-term regulation of the Earth's temperature and biosphere. The initial processes of colonization and subsequent rock weathering by microbial communities are still poorly understood and relatively few data are available on the diversity and richness of the communities inhabiting successive and chronological lava flows. In this study, the bacterial communities present on lava deposits from different eruptions of the 1975-84 Krafla Fires (32-, 35- and 39-year old, respectively) at the Krafla, Iceland, were determined.

RESULTS: Three sites were sampled for each deposit (32-, 35- and 39-year old), two proximal sites (at 10 m distance) and one more distant site (at 100 m from the two other sites). The determined chemical composition and metal concentrations were similar for the three basalt deposits. No significant differences were observed in the total number of cells in each flow. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing showed that the most abundant classified phylum across the 3 flows was Proteobacteria, although predominance of Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes was observed for some sampling sites. In addition, a considerable fraction of the operational taxonomic units remained unclassified. Alpha diversity (Shannon, inverse Simpson and Chao), HOMOVA and AMOVA only showed a significant difference for Shannon between the 32- and 39-year old flow (p < 0.05). Nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) analysis showed that age significantly (p = 0.026) influenced the leftward movement along NMDS axis 1.

CONCLUSIONS: Although NMDS indicated that the (relatively small) age difference of the deposits appeared to impact the bacterial community, this analysis was not consistent with AMOVA and HOMOVA, indicating no significant difference in community structure. The combined results drive us to conclude that the (relatively small) age differences of the deposits do not appear to be the main factor shaping the microbial communities. Probably other factors such as spatial heterogeneity, associated carbon content, exogenous rain precipitations and wind also affect the diversity and dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 24-Sept-2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacteria/classification
  • Biodiversity
  • Carbon/analysis
  • DNA, Bacterial/genetics
  • Iceland
  • Nitrogen/analysis
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Volcanic Eruptions/analysis


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