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Examples of microbes in context??

Lesley Robertson l.a.robertson at tnw.tudelft.nl
Mon Sep 15 03:14:00 EST 2003

"Martin Weiss" <weissm at rockefeller.edu> wrote in message
> Can anyone help with examples of the same or closely related
> microbes in action in different contexts? For example, decomposing
> microbes are beneficial in recycling nutrients in the wild but a
> nuisance in our refrigerators. This is for a science museum
> exhibition on microorganisms.

Lactobacilli? In a complex community they produce yoghurt, in isolation they
rot milk... Some of the acidophilic Thiobacilli are used to extract metals
from low grade ores, but they are also the ones that accelerate rusting as
some of them can also use iron as an electron donor (remember the rusticles
on the Titanic?). Nitrifiers - very useful in wastewater treatment but let
them get into the stone of your gothic cathedral and they produce HNO2/HNO3
and your lovely facade dissolves (there was a study on Cologne Cathedral
about 10 years ago).
It's very much like that old gardener's saying about a weed being a plant in
the wrong place......
Lesley Robertson

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