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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Mar;72(3):1932-8.

Microbial communities and fecal indicator bacteria associated with Cladophora mats on beach sites along Lake Michigan shores.

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  • 1Great Lakes WATER Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 600 E. Greenfield Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53204, USA.


A high biomasses of Cladophora, a filamentous green alga, is found mainly during the summer along the shores of Lake Michigan. In this study, the abundance and persistence of the fecal indicator bacterium Escherichia coli and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) on Cladophora mats collected at Lake Michigan beaches were evaluated using both culture-based and molecular analyses. Additionally, 16S rRNA gene cloning and sequencing were used to examine the bacterial community composition. Overall, E. coli was detected in all 63 samples obtained from 11 sites, and the average levels at most beaches ranged from 2,700 CFU/100 g (wet weight) of Cladophora to 7,500 CFU/100 g of Cladophora. However, three beaches were found to have site average E. coli densities of 12,800, 21,130, and 27,950 CFU/100 g of Cladophora. The E. coli levels in the lake water collected at the same time from these three sites were less than the recommended U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit, 235 CFU/100 ml. E. coli also persisted on Cladophora mats in microcosms at room temperature for more than 7 days, and in some experiments it persisted for as long as 28 days. The SRB densities on Cladophora mats were relatively high, ranging from 4.4x10(6) cells/g (6.64 log CFU/g) to 5.73x10(6) cells/g (6.76 log CFU/g) and accounting for between 20% and 27% of the total bacterial counts. Partial sequences of the 16S rRNA gene clones revealed a phylogenetically diverse community, in which the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides cluster and the low-G+C-content gram-positive bacteria were the dominant organisms, accounting for 40% and 12.8%, respectively, of the total clone library. These results further reveal the potential public health and ecological significance of Cladophora mats that are commonly found along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, especially with regard to the potential to harbor microorganisms associated with fecal pollution and odor-causing bacteria.

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