Evidence and characteristics of a diverse and metabolically active microbial community in deep subsurface clay borehole water

Research outputpeer-review


The Boom Clay in Belgium is investigated in the context of geological nuclear waste disposal, making use of the High Activity Disposal Experimental Site (HADES) underground research facility. This facility, located in the Boom Clay at a depth of 225 m below the surface, offers a unique access to a microbial community in an environment, of which all geological and geochemical characteristics are being thoroughly studied. This study presents the first elaborate description of a microbial community in water samples retrieved from a Boom Clay piezometer (borehole water). Using an integrated approach of microscopy, metagenomics, activity screening and cultivation, the presence and activity of this community are disclosed. Despite the presumed low-energy environment, microscopy and molecular analyses show a large bacterial diversity and richness, tending to correlate positively with the organic matter content of the environment. Among 10 borehole water samples, a core bacterial community comprising seven bacterial phyla is defined, including both aerobic and anaerobic genera with a range of metabolic preferences. In addition, a corresponding large fraction of this community is found cultivable and active. In conclusion, this study shows the possibility of a microbial community of relative complexity to persist in subsurface Boom Clay borehole water.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-473
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2013

Cite this