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Municipal solid waste landfills harbor distinct microbiomes

April 1, 2016

Landfills are the final repository for most of the discarded material from human society and its “built environments.” Microorganisms subsequently degrade this discarded material in the landfill, releasing gases (largely CH4 and CO2) and a complex mixture of soluble chemical compounds in leachate. Characterization of “landfill microbiomes” and their comparison across several landfills should allow the identification of environmental or operational properties that influence the composition of these microbiomes and potentially their biodegradation capabilities. To this end, the composition of landfill microbiomes was characterized as part of an ongoing USGS national survey studying the chemical composition of leachates from 19 non-hazardous landfills across 16 states in the continental U.S. The landfills varied in parameters such as size, waste composition, management strategy, geography, and climate zone. The diversity and composition of bacterial and archaeal populations in leachate samples were characterized by 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, and compared against a variety of physical and chemical parameters in an attempt to identify their impact on selection. Members of the Epsilonproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Clostridia, and candidate division OP3 were the most abundant. The distribution of the observed phylogenetic diversity could best be explained by a combination of variables and was correlated most strongly with the concentrations of chloride and barium, rate of evapotranspiration, age of waste, and the number of detected household chemicals. This study illustrates how leachate microbiomes are distinct from those of other natural or built environments, and sheds light on the major selective forces responsible for this microbial diversity.

Publication Year 2016
Title Municipal solid waste landfills harbor distinct microbiomes
DOI 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00534
Authors Blake W. Stamps, Christopher N. Lyles, Joseph M. Suflita, Jason R. Masoner, Isabelle M. Cozzarelli, Dana W. Kolpin, Bradley S. Stevenson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Microbiology
Index ID 70177963
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oklahoma Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program