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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2010 Jun;72(3):445-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2010.00855.x.

Functional microbial community response to nutrient pulses by artificial groundwater recharge practice in surface soils and subsoils.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, Institute of Biogeography, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.


Subsurface microorganisms are essential constituents of the soil purification processes associated with groundwater quality. In particular, soil enzyme activity determines the biodegradation of organic compounds passing through the soil profile. Transects from surface soil to a depth of 3.5 m were investigated for microbial and chemical soil characteristics at two groundwater recharge sites and one control site. The functional diversity of the microbial community was analyzed via the activity of eight enzymes. Acid phosphomonoesterase was dominant across sites and depths, followed by L-leucine aminopeptidase and beta-glucosidase. Structural [e.g. phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) pattern] and functional microbial diversities were linked to each other at the nonwatered site, whereas amendment with nutrients (DOC, NO(3)(-)) by flooding uncoupled this relationship. Microbial biomass did not differ between sites, whereas microbial respiration was the highest at the watered sites. Hence, excess nutrients available due to artificial groundwater recharge could not compensate for the limitation by others (e.g. phosphorus as assigned by acid phosphomonoesterase activity). Instead, at a similar microbial biomass, waste respiration via overflow metabolism occurred. In summary, ample supply of carbon by flooding led to a separation of decomposition and microbial growth, which may play an important role in regulating purification processes during groundwater recharge.

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