Iron sheet piles are widely used in flood protection, dike construction and river bank reinforcement. Their corrosion leads to gradual deterioration and often makes replacement necessary. Natural deposit layers on these sheet piles can prevent degradation and significantly increase their lifespan. However, little is known about the mechanisms of natural protective layer formation. Here, we studied the microbial diversity of corrosion-protective deposit layers on iron sheet piles at the Gouderak pumping station in Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands. Deposit layers, surrounding sediment and top sediment samples were analyzed for soil physicochemical parameters, microbial diversity and metabolic potential. Methanogens appeared to be enriched 18-fold in the deposit layers. After sequencing, metagenome assembly and binning, we obtained four near-complete draft genomes of microorganisms (Methanobacteriales, two Coriobacteriales and Syntrophobacterales) that were highly enriched in the deposit layers, strongly indicating a potential role in corrosion protection. Coriobacteriales and Syntrophobacterales could be part of a microbial foodweb degrading organic matter to supply methanogenic substrates. Methane-producing Methanobacteriales could metabolize iron which may initially lead to mild corrosion but potentially stimulates the formation of a carbonate-rich protective deposit layer in the long term. In addition, Methanobacteriales and Coriobacteriales have the potential to interact with metal surfaces via direct interspecies or extracellular electron transfer. In conclusion, our study provides valuable insights into microbial populations involved in iron corrosion protection and potentially enables the development of novel strategies for in-situ screening of iron sheet piles in order to reduce risks and develop more sustainable replacement practices.Importance Iron sheet piles are widely used to reinforce dikes and river banks. Damage due to iron corrosion poses a significant safety risk and has major economical impacts. Different groups of microorganisms are known to either stimulate or inhibit the corrosion process. Recently, natural corrosion-protective deposit layers were found on sheet piles. Analyses of the microbial composition indicated a potential role for methane-producing archaea. However, the full metabolic potential of the microbial communities within these protective layers has not been determined. The significance of this work lies in the reconstruction of the microbial food web of natural corrosion-protective layers isolated from non-corroding metal sheet piles. With this work, we provide insights into the microbiological mechanisms that potentially promote corrosion protection in freshwater ecosystems. Our findings could support the development of screening protocols to assess the integrity of iron sheet piles to decide whether replacement is required.
in 't Zandt, M. H., Kip, N., Frank, J., Jansen, S., van Veen, J. A., Jetten, M. S. M., & Welte, C. U. (2019). High-level abundance of Methanobacteriales and Syntrophobacterales may help to prevent corrosion of metal sheet piles. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 85(20), [AEM.01369-19]. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.01369-19