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Bacterial Activity and Preservation of Sedimentary Organic Matter: The Role of Exopolymeric Substances

Fiet, Nicolas
Published in Geomicrobiology Journal. 2007, vol. 24, no. 7, p. 571 - 581
Abstract Although exopolymeric substances (EPS) are associated with the microorganisms contributing to the production/degradation of sedimentary organic matter, their role in theses processes have so far never been mentioned. Using high-resolution microscopical tools (scanning and transmission electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy), fossil organic matter in the Miocene Monterey Formation (California) and Kimmeridgian laminites (France) has been compared with its present-day analogs, i.e., respectively sulphuroxidizing bacteria and cyanobacterial biofilms. This comparison shows that, particularly in the case of Kimmeridgian cyanobacterial mats deposited in a shallow back-reef environment, organic matter preservation is conditioned by exopolymeric substances secreted by bacteria. A model is proposed for the evolution through time of exopolymeric substances in relation to the mechanical constrains they have been exposed to, during lithification and diagenesis. This model is based on the microscopical observation of sulphuroxidizing bacteria and could explain the morphology of fossil organic matter usually referred to as "amorphous" in standard light microscopy. The highly hydrated nature of exopolymeric substances helps to protect organic matter from degradation and remineralization. These substances can be observed only in microscopy and are undetectable through organic geochemical methods, hence the need to combine these two methods in organic matter studies. Consequently, exopolymeric substances must be considered as an important contributing agent to organic matter preservation. These results confirm the complexity of the bacterial role in geoenvironments and add a new parameter in the productivity-vs-preservation debate.
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PACTON, Muriel, FIET, Nicolas, GORIN, Georges Edouard. Bacterial Activity and Preservation of Sedimentary Organic Matter: The Role of Exopolymeric Substances. In: Geomicrobiology Journal, 2007, vol. 24, n° 7, p. 571 - 581. doi: 10.1080/01490450701672042 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:13133

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Deposited on : 2011-01-07

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