The Effects of N:P Ratio and Nitrogen form on Four Major Freshwater Bacterial Taxa in Biofilms

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Canadian Journal of Microbiology

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N:P ratio, nitrogen form, freshwater, bacterial taxa, biofilms




Bacteria in freshwater systems play an important role in nutrient cycling through both assimilatory and dissimilatory processes. Biotic and abiotic components of the environment affect these transformations as does the stoichiometry of the nutrients. We examined responses of four major taxa of bacteria in biofilms subjected to various N:P molar ratios using either nitrate or ammonium as a nitrogen source. Fluorescent in situ hybridization was used to enumerate the Domain bacteria as well as the alpha-, beta-, and gamma-proteobacteria, and the Cytophaga-Flavobacteria cluster. Generally, bacterial responses to the treatments were limited. However, the Cytophaga-Flavobacteria and beta-proteobacteria both responded more to the ammonium additions than nitrate, whereas, the alpha-proteobacteria responded more to nitrate additions. The beta-proteobacteria also exhibited peak relative abundance at the highest N:P ratio. Nutrient concentrations were significantly different after the incubation period, and there were distinct changes in the stoichiometry of the microcosms with ammonium. We demonstrated that bacteria may play an important role in nutrient uptake, and transformation, and can have a dramatic effect on the nutrient stoichiometry of the surrounding water. However, although some taxa exhibited differences in response to ammonium and nitrate, the impact of nutrient stoichiometry on the abundance of the taxa examined was limited.