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Paper: Microbial and Chemical Characterization of Geothermal Ground Water
Volume: 213, Bioastronomy '99: A New Era in Bioastronomy
Page: 391
Authors: Schulze-Makuch, Dirk; Kennedy, John
Abstract: Subsurface geothermal sites are commonly colonized by chemolithotrophic bacteria which use rock minerals and CO_2 as sole nutrients. This type of ``life cradle'' may not only be common on Earth but may also be a likely scenario on many other planets. Three geothermal sites in southern New Mexico have been chosen to characterize geothermal waters for microbial diversity and chemical content. All sites of this on-going study are located on or near the Rio Grande Rift and are tapped into fractured reservoir systems of Paleozoic carbonate rocks, Tertiary volcanic rocks or consolidated basin-fill sediments. Geothermal fluids were analyzed for major cations and anions, selected trace elements, TOC, phosphate, fluoride and dissolved gases. The microbial analysis included phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis and DNA sequencing. Geothermal ground water was high in dissolved solids, had high concentrations of carbon dioxide and was more acidic than adjacent ground water not affected by geothermal activity. Geothermal ground-water samples contained very low amounts of biomass composed of relatively simple microbial communities. Several species of Archaebacteria were detected in some of the ground water that was derived from wells tapping into deep fractured systems. The analysis of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) images indicated distinct differences of the types of microbes present in geothermal water compared to an adjacent deep non-thermal flow system.
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