2019 Volume 34 Issue 3 Pages 278-292
Hydrothermal systems, including terrestrial hot springs, contain diverse geochemical conditions that vary over short spatial scales due to progressive interactions between reducing hydrothermal fluids, the oxygenated atmosphere, and, in some cases, seawater. At Jinata Onsen on Shikinejima Island, Japan, an intertidal, anoxic, iron-rich hot spring mixes with the oxygenated atmosphere and seawater over short spatial scales, creating diverse chemical potentials and redox pairs over a distance of ~10 m. We characterized geochemical conditions along the outflow of Jinata Onsen as well as the microbial communities present in biofilms, mats, and mineral crusts along its traverse using 16S rRNA gene amplicon and genome-resolved shotgun metagenomic sequencing. Microbial communities significantly changed downstream as temperatures and dissolved iron concentrations decreased and dissolved oxygen increased. Biomass was more limited near the spring source than downstream, and primary productivity appeared to be fueled by the oxidation of ferrous iron and molecular hydrogen by members of Zetaproteobacteria and Aquificae. The microbial community downstream was dominated by oxygenic Cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are abundant and active even at ferrous iron concentrations of ~150 μM, which challenges the idea that iron toxicity limited cyanobacterial expansion in Precambrian oceans. Several novel lineages of Bacteria are also present at Jinata Onsen, including previously uncharacterized members of the phyla Chloroflexi and Calditrichaeota, positioning Jinata Onsen as a valuable site for the future characterization of these clades.