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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2012 Jul;81(1):230-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2012.01371.x. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

Spatio-temporal patterns of microbial communities in a hydrologically dynamic pristine aquifer.

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Institute of Groundwater Ecology, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, GmbH, Neuherberg, Germany.


Seasonal patterns of groundwater and sediment microbial communities were explored in a hydrologically dynamic alpine oligotrophic porous aquifer, characterized by pronounced groundwater table fluctuations. Rising of the groundwater level in consequence of snow melting water recharge was accompanied by a dramatic drop of bacterial Shannon diversity in groundwater from H' = 3.22 ± 0.28 in autumn and winter to H' = 1.31 ± 0.35 in spring and summer, evaluated based on T-RFLP community fingerprinting. Elevated numbers of bacteria in groundwater in autumn followed nutrient inputs via recharge from summer rains and correlated well with highest concentrations of assimilable organic carbon. Sterile sediments incubated to groundwater in monitoring wells were readily colonized reaching maximum cell densities within 2 months, followed by a consecutive but delayed increase and leveling-off of bacterial diversity. After 1 year of incubation, the initially sterile sediments exhibited a similar number of bacteria and Shannon diversity when compared to vital sediment from a nearby river incubated in parallel. The river bed sediment microbial communities hardly changed in composition, diversity, and cell numbers during 1 year of exposure to groundwater. Summing up, the seasonal hydrological dynamics were found to induce considerable dynamics of microbial communities suspended in groundwater, while sediment communities seem unaffected and stable in terms of biomass and diversity.

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