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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 4;8(9):e72561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072561. eCollection 2013.

Positive effects of bacterial diversity on ecosystem functioning driven by complementarity effects in a bioremediation context.

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Centro de Investigaciones Microbiológicas, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.


Despite their importance as ecosystem drivers, our understanding of the influence of bacterial diversity on ecosystem functioning is limited. After identifying twelve bacterial strains from two petroleum-contaminated sites, we experimentally explored the impact of biodiversity on total density by manipulating the number of strains in culture. Irrespective of the origin of the bacteria relative to the contaminant, biodiversity positively influenced total density. However, bacteria cultured in the crude oil of their origin (autochthonous) reached higher densities than bacteria from another origin (allochthonous) and the relationship between diversity and density was stronger for autochthonous bacteria. By measuring the relative contribution of each strain to total density we showed that the observed positive effect of increasing diversity on total density was mainly due to positive interactions among species and not the presence of a particular species. Our findings can be explained by the complex chemical composition of crude oil and the necessity of a diverse array of organisms with complementary enzymatic capacities to achieve its degradation. The long term exposure to a contaminant may have allowed different bacteria to become adapted to the use of different fractions of the crude, resulting in higher complementarity in resource use in autochthonous bacteria compared to allochthonous ones. Our results could help improve the success of bioaugmentation as a bioremediation technique by suggesting the use of a diversified set of autochthonous organisms.

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