Response of Biofilm Bacteria to Dissolved Organic Matter from Decomposing Maple Leaves

Publication Title

Microbial Ecology

Publication Date


Document Type





biofilm bacteria, dissolved organic matter, decomposing maple leaves




Stream bacteria play an important role in the utilization of dissolved organic matter (DOM) leached from leaves, and in transfer of this DOM to other trophic levels. Leaf leachate is a mixture of labile, recalcitrant, and inhibitory compounds, and bacterial communities vary in their ability to utilize leachate. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of DOM from sugar maple leaves on bacterial populations in biofilms on decomposing leaf surfaces. Populations of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, Burkholderia cepacia, and Pseudomonas putida were enumerated on decomposing maple leaves in a northeast Ohio stream using fluorescence in situ hybridization. Additionally, artificial substrata consisting of PVC-end caps filled with agar supplemented with leaf leachate and covered with cellulose filters were used to determine bacterial response to leachate from leaves at different stages of decomposition. Population sizes of bacterial species exhibited different responses. Leachate did not affect A. calcoaceticus. B. cepacia was tolerant of phenolic compounds released from leaves and the population size increased when DOM concentrations were greatest. In contrast, P. putida was inhibited by phenolic components of leachate when total DOM concentrations were greatest. Differences in response of the bacterial species to components of leaf leachate indicate the complexity of microbial population dynamics and interactions with DOM. Differences among species in response to DOM have the potential to influence transport and retention of organic matter in stream ecosystems.