Attached Bacterial Communities in Lakes – Habitat-Specific Differences

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: For many years, the importance of microorganisms attached to surfaces in littoral zones and wetlands has been disregarded when describing aquatic ecosystem dynamics. Supporting evidence is scarce but convincing that these microbial communities are not only very productive but can often serve as major regulators of nutrient and carbon dynamics in many freshwaters. In order to determine the quantitative importance of epiphytic bacteria for the overall carbon turnover, I compared the relative contribution of epiphytic bacteria on the submerged macrophyte Ranunculus circinatus, sediment and free-living bacteria to the total bacterial production. Sediment bacteria generally dominated total bacterial biomass in the littoral zone. Although the epiphytic biomass on R. circinatus was ten times lower than the biomass of sediment bacteria, it often contributed at least equally to the total bacterial production. Thus, the results presented in this thesis confirm that most bacterial biomass and production in shallow lakes is associated with surfaces, and that in littoral zones with dense macrophyte stands, epiphytic bacteria can contribute significantly to the overall carbon turnover.There is increasing evidence that not all cells in natural bacterial communities are metabolically active. In Lake Erken, there were large differences in the fraction of active bacteria between different habitats, while the within-habitat differences were small. The sediments had the largest bacterial fraction, followed by epiphytic bacteria, while in the water column only a few percent of the bacteria were active. In this thesis the fraction of active bacteria is connected to environmental fluctuations. I hypothesize that smaller fluctuations in chemical, biological or physical factors result in large active bacterial fractions. Thus, small environmental fluctuations within a habitat allow large active bacterial fractions, while the active fraction is constrained when the environmental fluctuations are large.

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