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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Sep;69(9):5443-52.

Effects of current velocity on the nascent architecture of stream microbial biofilms.

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  • 1Department of Limnology, IECB, University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


Current velocity affected the architecture and dynamics of natural, multiphyla, and cross-trophic level biofilms from a forested piedmont stream. We monitored the development and activity of biofilms in streamside flumes operated under two flow regimes (slow [0.065 m s(-1)] and fast [0.23 m s(-1)]) by combined confocal laser scanning microscopy with cryosectioning to observe biofilm structure and composition. Biofilm growth started as bacterial microcolonies embedded in extracellular polymeric substances and transformed into ripple-like structures and ultimately conspicuous quasihexagonal networks. These structures were particularly pronounced in biofilms grown under slow current velocities and were characterized by the prominence of pennate diatoms oriented along their long axes to form the hexagons. Microstructural heterogeneity was dynamic, and biofilms that developed under slower velocities were thicker and had larger surface sinuosity and higher areal densities than their counterparts exposed to higher velocities. Surface sinuosity and biofilm fragmentation increased with thickness, and these changes likely reduced resistance to the mass transfer of solutes from the water column into the biofilms. Nevertheless, estimates of dissolved organic carbon uptake and microbial growth suggested that internal cycling of carbon was more important in thick biofilms grown in slow flow conditions. High-pressure liquid chromatography-pulsed amperometric detection analyses of exopolysaccharides documented a temporal shift in monosaccharide composition as the glucose levels decreased and the levels of rhamnose, galactose, mannose, xylose, and arabinose increased. We attribute this change in chemical composition to the accumulation of diatoms and increased incorporation of detrital particles in mature biofilms.

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