Aromatic compound-degrading taxa in an anoxic coal seam microbiome from the Surat Basin, Australia

Bronwyn C. Campbell, Se Gong, Paul Greenfield, David J. Midgley, Ian T. Paulsen, Simon C. George

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Methane is an important energy resource internationally, and a large proportion of this methane is produced by microbial communities living in coal seams. Despite the value of this resource for human energy security, our understanding of the metabolic roles played by specific taxa during the biodegradation of coal to methane in situ is quite limited. In order to develop a greater understanding of microbial catabolism on coal, a community from a coal seam in the Surat Basin, Australia, was incubated on 10 different aromatic organic compounds: coronene, benzo[a]pyrene, pyrene, phenanthrene, naphthalene, ethylbenzene, phenol, benzoate, vanillate and syringate. Each of these aromatic compounds either occurs in coal or is a possible product of the coal biodegradation process. 16S rRNA sequencing revealed substantial changes to each community in response to each aromatic carbon substrate provided. Abundant taxa from these substrate-specific communities were identified and their probable catabolic roles proposed based on literature searches of related taxa. This study is the first to link specific coal seam taxa to aromatic substrates available in coal seam environments. Two conceptual models of the putative degradation pathways and key taxa responsible are proposed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberfiab053
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2021


    • coal seam gas
    • coalbed methane
    • aromatic compound
    • aromatic hydrocarbon
    • degradation pathway
    • coal seam microbiology


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