A molecular biological analysis of Icelandic volcanic rocks of different compositions and glassiness revealed the presence of Actinobacteria as an abundant phylum. In outcrops of basaltic glass they were the dominant bacterial phylum. A diversity of Actinobacteria were cultured from the rocks on rock-agar plates showing that they are capable of growing on rock-derived nutrient sources and that many of the taxa identified by molecular methods are viable, potentially active members of the community. Laboratory batch-culture experiments using a Streptomyces isolate showed that it was capable of enhancing the release of major elements from volcanic rocks, including weathered basaltic glass, crystalline basalt and komatiite, when provided with a carbon source. Actinobacteria of a variety of other sub-orders were also capable of enhancing volcanic rock weathering, measured as Si release. However, most strains did not significantly increase the weathering of the silica-rich rock, obsidian. These data show that Actinobacteria can contribute to volcanic rock weathering and, therefore, the carbonate-silicate cycle. Given their ancient lineage, it is likely they have played a role in rock weathering for over two billion years.
- volcanic rock