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Ecology. 2006 Aug;87(8):2068-79.

Variation in dissolved organic matter controls bacterial production and community composition.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1048, USA.


An ongoing debate in ecology revolves around how species composition and ecosystem function are related. To address the mechanistic controls of this relationship, we manipulated the composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) fed to aquatic bacteria to determine effects on both bacterial activity and community composition. Sites along terrestrial to aquatic flow paths were chosen to simulate movement of DOM through catchments, and DOM was fed to downslope and control bacterial communities. Bacterial production was measured, and DOM chemistry and bacterial community composition (using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of 16S rRNA genes) were characterized following incubations. Bacterial production, dissolved organic carbon (DOC)-specific bacterial production, and DOC consumption were greatest in mesocosms fed soil water DOM; soil water DOM enhanced lake and stream bacterial production by 320-670% relative to lake and stream controls. Stream DOM added to lake bacteria depressed bacterial production relative to lake controls in the early season (-78%) but not the mid-season experiment. Addition of upslope DOM to stream and lake bacterial communities resulted in significant changes in bacterial community composition relative to controls. In four of five DOM treatments, the bacterial community composition converged to the DOM source community regardless of the initial inoculum. These results demonstrate that shifts in the supply of natural DOM were followed by changes in both bacterial production and community composition, suggesting that changes in function are likely predicated on at least an initial change in the community composition. The results indicate that variation in DOM composition of soil and surface waters influences bacterial community dynamics and controls rates of carbon processing in set patterns across the landscape.

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