Microbial Nitrogen and Sulfur Cycles at the Gypsum Dunes of White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Mihaela Glamoclija, Marilyn L. Fogel, Andrew Steele, Adrienne Kish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The White Sands National Monument from New Mexico (U.S.A) contains one of the largest known gypsum dune fields with unique, rapidly migrating, arid, evaporitic habitats. Deposits from dune sides and interdune areas were collected in order to determine the characteristics of microbial habitat and communities through mineral assemblages, microbial pigments along with investigations of nitrogen and sulfur cycles. The most abundant pigments, scytonemin and carotenoids, were common UV protective pigments. Predominance of nitrite and nitrate over ammonium nitrogen (2.16: 1) implies that nitrification processes might be important in this ecosystem. Ammonium oxidizers from groups of β-, γ-proteobacteria and archaea were detected in all deposits, thereby indicating microbial involvement in nitrification. Additionally, denitrifying organisms with nirS and nirK genes were also present in most of the analyzed samples. The presence of trace carbonate mineral phases in association with biofilm implies possible microbial sulfate reduction. Microbes with metabolic abilities for sulfur cycling (i.e., dissimilatory sulfite reducers, purple sulfur bacteria, green sulfur and non-sulfur bacteria, and organisms with the APS enzyme) were identified in all samples. These particular organisms have the ability to reduce sulfate and to re-oxidize reduced sulfur compounds back to sulfate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-751
Number of pages19
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Dunes
  • Gypsum
  • Nitrogen cycling
  • Sulfur cycling


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