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Applied and Environmental Microbiology

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fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, leaves, decomposition, stream




Although fungi, bacteria, and specific bacterial taxa, such as the actinomycetes, have been studied extensively in various habitats, few studies have examined them simultaneously, especially on decomposing leaves in streams. In this study, sugar maple and white oak leaves were incubated in a stream in northeastern Ohio for 181 days during which samples were collected at regular intervals. Following DNA extraction, PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) was performed using fungus-, bacterium-, and actinomycete-specific primers. In addition, fungal and bacterial biomass was estimated. Fungal biomass differed on different days but not between leaves of the two species and was always greater than bacterial biomass. There were significant differences in bacterial biomass through time and between leaf types on some days. Generally, on the basis of DGGE, few differences in community structure were found for different leaf types. However, the ribotype richness of fungi was significantly greater than those of the bacteria and actinomycetes, which were similar to each other. Ribotype richness decreased toward the end of the study for each group except bacteria. Lack of differences between the two leaf types suggests that the microorganisms colonizing the leaf biofilm were primarily generalists that could exploit the resources of the leaves of either species equally well. Thus, we conclude that factors, such as the ecological role of the taxa (generalists versus specialists), stage of decay, and time of exposure, appeared to be more important determinants of microbial community structure than leaf quality.

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