Different effects of nano-scale and micro-scale zero-valent iron particles on planktonic microorganisms from natural reservoir water†
While nano-scale and micro-scale zero-valent iron (nZVI and mZVI) particles show high potential for remediation of polluted soil aquifers and elimination of cyanobacterial blooms, this has required their release into the environment. This study compares the impact of 100 mg L−1 of nZVI and mZVI on natural planktonic microorganisms from a reservoir, incubated in 1.5 L batches over 21 days. In addition to counting cyanobacterial and algal cell numbers, bacterial community structure was assessed using Ion Torrent sequencing and the number of cultivable bacteria determined using standard cultivation methods. Surprisingly, while mZVI had no significant effect on algal cell number, cyanobacteria numbers increased slightly after 14 days (P < 0.05). Algae were only marginally affected by nZVI after seven days (P < 0.05), while cyanobacteria numbers remained unaffected after 21 days. Total species richness and less common bacteria increased significantly when treated with mZVI (compared to nZVI). The abundance of Limnohabitans (Betaproteobacteria), Roseiflexus (Chloroflexi), hgcl_clade (Actinobacteria) and Comamonadaceae_unclassified (Betaproteobacteria) increased under nZVI treatment, while mZVI enhanced Opitutae_vadinHA64 (Verrucomicrobia) and the OPB35_soil_group (Verrucomicrobia). Interestingly, the number of cultivable bacteria increased significantly after three days in water with nZVI, and further still after seven days. nZVI shaped bacterial community both directly, through release of Fe(II)/Fe(III), and indirectly, through rapid oxygen consumption and establishment of reductive conditions. The strong physico-chemical changes caused by nZVI proved temporary; hence, it can be assumed that, under natural conditions in resilient reservoirs or lakes, microbial plankton would recover within days or weeks.