High-arsenic (As) groundwaters, a worldwide issue, are critically controlled by multiple interconnected biogeochemical processes. However, there is limited information on the complex biogeochemical interaction networks that cause groundwater As enrichment in aquifer systems. The western Hetao basin was selected as a study area to address this knowledge gap, offering an aquifer system where groundwater flows from an oxidizing proximal fan (low dissolved As) to a reducing flat plain (high dissolved As). The key microbial interaction networks underpinning the biogeochemical pathways responsible for As mobilization along the groundwater flow path were characterized by genome-resolved metagenomic analysis. Genes associated with microbial Fe(II) oxidation and dissimilatory nitrate reduction were noted in the proximal fan, suggesting the importance of nitrate-dependent Fe(II) oxidation in immobilizing As. However, genes catalyzing microbial Fe(III) reduction ( omcS) and As(V) detoxification ( arsC) were highlighted in groundwater samples downgradient flow path, inferring that reductive dissolution of As-bearing Fe(III) (oxyhydr)oxides mobilized As(V), followed by enzymatic reduction to As(III). Genes associated with ammonium oxidation ( hzsABC and hdh) were also positively correlated with Fe(III) reduction ( omcS), suggesting a role for the Feammox process in driving As mobilization. The current study illustrates how genomic sequencing tools can help dissect complex biogeochemical systems, and strengthen biogeochemical models that capture key aspects of groundwater As enrichment.
- Ferric Compounds/metabolism
- Ferrous Compounds
- Water Pollutants, Chemical/chemistry