Fungal Iron Biomineralization in Rio Tinto

Author: 

Monike Oggerin, Fernando Tornos , Nuria Rodriguez , Laura Pascual and Ricardo Amils
MINERALS Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Article Number: 37

Abstract: 

Although there are many studies on biomineralization processes, most of them focus on the role of prokaryotes. As fungi play an important role in different geological and biogeochemical processes, it was considered of interest to evaluate their role in a natural extreme acidic environment, Rio Tinto, which has a high level of fungal diversity and a high concentration of metals. In this work we report, for the first time, the generation of iron oxyhydroxide minerals by the fungal community in a specific location of the Tinto basin. Using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and High Angle Angular Dark Field coupled with Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (HAADF-STEM) and Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDX), we observed fungal structures involved in the formation of iron oxyhydroxide minerals in mineralized sediment samples from the Rio Tinto basin. Although Rio Tinto waters are supersaturated in these minerals, they do not precipitate due to their slow precipitation kinetics. The presence of fungi, which simply provide charged surfaces for metal binding, favors the precipitation of Fe oxyhydroxides by overcoming these kinetic barriers. These results prove that the fungal community of Rio Tinto participates very actively in the geochemical processes that take place there.