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A series of sites were established on Hawaiian volcanic deposits ranging from about 18 to 300 years old. Three sites occurred in areas that supported tropical rain forests; the remaining sites were in areas that supported little or no plant growth. Sites >26 years old consumed atmospheric CO and hydrogen at rates ranging from about 0.2 to 5 mg of CO m-2 day-1 and 0.1 to 4 mg of H2 m-2 day-1, respectively. Respiration, measured as CO2 production, for a subset of the sites ranged from about 40 to > 1,400 mg of CO2 m-2 day-1. CO and H2 accounted for about 13 to 25% of reducing equivalent flow for all but a forested site, where neither substrate appeared significant. Based on responses to chloroform fumigation, hydrogen utilization appeared largely due to microbial uptake. In contrast to results for CO and hydrogen, methane uptake occurred consistently only at the forest site. Increasing deposit age was generally accompanied by increasing concentrations of organic matter and microbial biomass, measured as phospholipid phosphate. Exoenzymatic activities (acid and alkaline phosphatases and α- and β-glucosidases) were positively correlated with deposit age in spite of considerable variability within sites. The diversity of substrates utilized in Biolog Ecoplate assays also increased with deposit age, possibly reflecting changes in microbial community complexity.

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Applied and Environmental Microbiology

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