Microbial community response to environmental changes in a technosol historically contaminated by the burning of chemical ammunitions

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Dec 20;697:134108. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134108. Epub 2019 Aug 26.


The burning of chemical weapons in the 1926-1928 period produced polluted technosols with elevated levels of arsenic, zinc, lead and copper. During an eight-month mesocosm experiment, these soils were submitted to two controlled environmental changes, namely the alternation of dry and water-saturated conditions and the addition of fragmented organic forest litter to the surface soil. We investigated, by sequencing the gene coding 16S rRNA and 18S rRNA, (1) the structure of the prokaryotic and eukaryotic community in this polluted technosol and (2) their response to the simulated environmental changes, in the four distinct layers of the mesocosm. In spite of the high concentrations of toxic elements, microbial diversity was found to be similar to that of non-polluted soils. The bacterial community was dominated by Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria and Bacteroidetes, while the fungal community was dominated by Ascomicota. Amongst the most abundant bacterial Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs), including Sphingomonas as a major genus, some were common to soil environments in general whereas a few, such as organisms related to Leptospirillum and Acidiferrobacter, seemed to be more specific to the geochemical context. Evolution of the microbial abundance and community structures shed light on modifications induced by water saturation and the addition of forest litter to the soil surface. Co-inertia analysis suggests a relationship between the physico-chemical parameters total organic carbon, Zn, NH4+ and As(III) concentrations and the bacterial community structure. Both these results imply that microbial community dynamics linked to environmental changes should be considered as factors influencing the behavior of toxic elements on former ammunition burning sites.

Keywords: Contaminated technosol; Illumina sequencing; Mesocosm study; Microbial communities composition.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Chemical Warfare Agents / analysis*
  • France
  • Fungi / classification
  • Incineration*
  • Microbiota*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Microbiology*


  • Chemical Warfare Agents
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • Soil