Rieder S R, Frey B (2013) Methyl-mercury affects microbial activity and biomass, bacterial community structure but rarely the fungal community structure. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 64: 164-173. [10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.04.017]


Mercury; Hg; Methyl-Hg; Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP); Basal respiration; Microbial biomass; 16S rRNA gene; ITS gene


Abstract Monomethyl-mercury is one of the most toxic compounds. Methylation of Hg usually appears under anoxic conditions. In Swiss forest soils, methyl-Hg concentrations of up to 3 µg kg-1 soil dw have been observed, but the impact of methyl-Hg on soil microorganisms have rarely been examined so far. In this study, we investigated the effect of increasing concentrations of methyl-Hg (0, 5, 20, 90 µg kg-1 soil dw) on the microbial communities in various forest soils differing in their physico-chemical properties. Experiments were conducted in microcosms under controlled conditions and the basal respiration (BR), the microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and the bacterial and fungal community structures using T-RFLP-profiling were investigated. BR was significantly affected by methyl-Hg. In general, the BR increased with increasing methyl-Hg concentrations, whereas the MBC was significantly reduced. Bacterial communities were more sensitive to methyl-Hg than fungal communities. In five out of seven soils, the bacterial community structures differed significantly between the treatments whereas the fungal communities did not. The impact of methyl-Hg on the soil bacterial communities was site specific. In one soil, a methyl-Hg concentration of already 5 µg kg-1 soil dw significantly affected the relative abundance of 13% bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTU), whereas in other soils concentrations of even 90 µg kg-1 soil dw rarely affected the abundance of OTUs. In this study, for the first time, the impact of methyl-Hg on soil bacterial and fungal communities in forest soils was assessed. We showed that its impact strongly depends on the physico-chemical conditions of the soil and that bacterial communities were more sensitive to methyl-Hg than fungi.

LWF Classification

Network: LWF, Sites: Lausanne; Schänis, Category: ISI,