Characterization of coastal urban watershed bacterial communities leads to alternative community-based indicators

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Abstract

Background: Microbial communities in aquatic environments are spatially and temporally dynamic due to environmental fluctuations and varied external input sources. A large percentage of the urban watersheds in the United States are affected by fecal pollution, including human pathogens, thus warranting comprehensive monitoring. Methodology/Principal Findings: Using a high-density microarray (PhyloChip), we examined water column bacterial community DNA extracted from two connecting urban watersheds, elucidating variable and stable bacterial subpopulations over a 3-day period and community composition profiles that were distinct to fecal and non-fecal sources. Two approaches were used for indication of fecal influence. The first approach utilized similarity of 503 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) common to all fecal samples analyzed in this study with the watershed samples as an index of fecal pollution. A majority of the 503 OTUs were found in the phyla Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria. The second approach incorporated relative richness of 4 bacterial classes (Bacilli, Bacteroidetes, Clostridia and α-proteobacteria) found to have the highest variance in fecal and non-fecal samples. The ratio of these 4 classes (BBC:A) from the watershed samples demonstrated a trend where bacterial communities from gut and sewage sources had higher ratios than from sources not impacted by fecal material. This trend was also observed in the 124 bacterial communities from previously published and unpublished sequencing or PhyloChip- analyzed studies. Conclusions/Significance: This study provided a detailed characterization of bacterial community variability during dry weather across a 3-day period in two urban watersheds. The comparative analysis of watershed community composition resulted in alternative community-based indicators that could be useful for assessing ecosystem health. © 2010 Wu et al.

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Wu, C. H., Sercu, B., van de Werfhorst, L. C., Wong, J., deSantis, T. Z., Brodie, E. L., … Andersen, G. L. (2010). Characterization of coastal urban watershed bacterial communities leads to alternative community-based indicators. PLoS ONE, 5(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0011285

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