Nutrients and Other Abiotic Factors Affecting Bacterial Communities in an Ohio River (USA)

Publication Title

Microbial Ecology

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nytrients, abiotic factors, bacterial communities, Ohio, river




Nitrogen and phosphorus additions from anthropogenic sources can alter the nutrient pool of aquatic systems, both through increased nutrient concentrations and changes in stoichiometry. Because bacteria are important in nutrient cycling and aquatic food webs, information about how nutrients affect bacterial communities enhances our understanding of how changes in nutrient concentrations and stoichiometry potentially affect aquatic ecosystems as a whole. In this study, bacterial communities were examined in biofilms from cobbles collected across seasons at three sites along the Mahoning River (Ohio) with differing levels of inorganic nutrient inputs. Members of the alpha-, beta-, and gamma-proteobacteria, the Cytophaga-Flavobacteria cluster, and the Domain Bacteria were enumerated using fluorescent in situ hybridization. Detrended canonical correspondence analysis (DCCA) revealed that stoichiometric ratios, especially the dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN):soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) molar ratio (NO(2)/NO(3) + NH(4):soluble reactive phosphorus), were correlated with abundance of the various bacterial taxa. However, the patterns were complicated by correlations with single nutrient concentrations and seasonal changes in temperature. Seasonal cycles appeared to play an important role in structuring the community, as there were distinct winter communities and temperature was negatively correlated with abundance of both alpha-proteobacteria and Cytophaga-Flavobacteria. However, nutrients and stoichiometry also appeared to affect the community. Numbers of cells hybridizing the Domain Bacteria probe were correlated with the DOC:DIN ratio, the beta-proteobacteria had a negative correlation with soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations and a positive correlation with the DIN:SRP ratio, and the Cytophaga-Flavobacteria had a significant negative partial correlation with the DIN:SRP ratio. Abundances of the alpha- or gamma-proteobacteria were not directly correlated to nutrient concentrations or stoichiometry. It appears that nutrient stoichiometry may be an important factor structuring bacterial communities; however, it is one of many factors, such as temperature, that are interlinked and must be considered together when studying environmental bacteria.