1. An artificial glass substratum was incubated in the River Danube for a period of 28 days in order to detect the sequential colonization of microorganisms. 2. Light and fluorescent microscopy showed that microalgae and the picoalgal fraction on the slides increased rapidly over the first 2 weeks of colonization. Diatoms were numerically the most abundant component of the periphyton and their species richness and diversity increased rapidly in the early phase of colonization whereas diversity subsequently increased moderately. 3. Evenness of the diatom community was initially high, lower in the intermediate phase and again higher later on. Succession involving early, intermediate and late colonizer species was observed. Community composition during the first 5 days of colonization was very different from later stages whereas there were only minor changes subsequently. 4. Molecular community analysis by means of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of PCR amplified 16S rRNA and 18S rRNA genes pointed to even larger differences between the composition of samples obtained early and late in the period. 5. The number of 18S rRNA and 16S rRNA terminal restriction fragments (T-RF-s) was variable over the colonization period and the fragment patterns of both the bacterial and eukaryotic portion of the microbial community were variable, with most T-RF-s unique to a single sample, suggesting a wide diversity and dynamic properties of periphytic organisms.
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