Kinetic analysis of competition between sulfate reducers and methanogens for hydrogen in sediments

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1982 Jun;43(6):1373-9. doi: 10.1128/aem.43.6.1373-1379.1982.


The competition between sulfate-reducing and methanogenic bacteria for hydrogen was investigated in eutrophic lake sediments that contained low in situ sulfate concentrations and in sulfate-amended sediments. Sulfate reduction and methane production coexisted in situ in lake surface sediments (0 to 2 cm), but methane production was the dominant terminal process. Addition of 10 to 20 mM sulfate to sediments resulted in a decrease in the hydrogen partial pressure and a concomitant inhibition of methane production over time. Molybdate inhibition of sulfate reduction in sulfate-amended sediments was followed by an increase in the hydrogen partial pressure and the methane production rate to values comparable to those in sediments not amended with sulfate. The sulfate reducer population had a half-saturation constant for hydrogen uptake of 141 pascals versus 597 pascals for the methanogen population. Thus, when sulfate was not limiting, the lower half-saturation constant of sulfate reducers enabled them to inhibit methane production by lowering the hydrogen partial pressure below levels that methanogens could effectively utilize. However, methanogens coexisted with sulfate reducers in the presence of sulfate, and the outcome of competition at any time was a function of the rate of hydrogen production, the relative population sizes, and sulfate availability.