Surface and Subsurface Coal Environments: From Environmental Formation and Chemistry to Microbial Communities

  • Christopher R. Marks
  • Amy V. CallaghanEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Coal and coal extracts fuel a large portion of global trade by contributing to industries in energy production, infrastructure development, and chemical/material processing. The mining and recovery of these resources have tremendous economic and environmental impacts in coal-rich nations. Coal-associated habitats (e.g., coalbeds, coal mines, and spoil heaps) are highly complex ecosystems that support a wide array of microbial life and biogeochemical processes influenced by ancient and near-term hydrogeological properties. Subsurface formation waters support syntrophic assemblages of Bacteria and Archaea that cooperatively mineralize coal-derived organic material to form coalbed methane. Spoil heaps of surface extraction wastes contribute large masses of toxic metals and sulfide-rich minerals to top soils and aquatic habitats, driving microbial redox cycles that promote acidification and metal leaching. Microbiology is, therefore, intricately linked to the coal industry and plays critical roles in aspects ranging from production to remediation.



The preparation of this chapter was funded in part by a National Science Foundation grant (MCB-1329890).


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and DevelopmentNational Risk Management Research Laboratory, Groundwater, Watershed, and Ecosystem Restoration DivisionAdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology and Plant BiologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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