Microbial colonization on new terrestrial substrates represents the initiation of new soil ecosystem formation. In this study, we analyzed early bacterial communities growing on volcanic ash deposits derived from the 2000 Mount Oyama eruption on the island of Miyake (Miyake-jima), Japan. A site was established in an unvegetated area near the summit and investigated over a 6-year period from 2003 to 2009. Collected samples were acidic (pH 3.0-3.6), did not utilize any organic substrates in ECO microplate assays (Biolog), and harbored around 10) 6 cells (g dry weight) -1 of autotrophic Fe(II) oxidizers by most-probable-number (MPN) counts. Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans, and the Leptospirillum groups I, II and III were found to be abundant in the deposits by clone library analysis of bacterial 16S rRNA genes. The numerical dominance of Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans was also supported by analysis of the gene coding for the large subunit of the form I ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO). Comparing the 16S rRNA gene clone libraries from samples differing in age, shifts in Fe(II)-oxidizing populations seemed to occur with deposit aging. The detection of known 16S rRNA gene sequences from Fe(III)-reducing acidophiles promoted us to propose the acidity-driven iron cycle for the early microbial ecosystem on the deposit.
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