AME - Vol. 60, No. 1 - Feature article

Organic aggregates (light micrograph inset and dark spots in main photo) produced in 10 l rotating tanks function as islands for aquatic bacteria, including potential pathogens. Photos by M. M. Lyons

Lyons MM, Ward JE, Gaff H, Hicks RE, Drake JM, Dobbs FC


Theory of island biogeography on a microscopic scale: organic aggregates as islands for aquatic pathogens


Mathematical modeling of the transmission of waterborne diseases from aquatic reservoirs to humans is hampered by an incomplete understanding of mechanisms whereby aquatic pathogens persist in the environment. Lyons and coworkers evaluated four predictions of the MacArthur-Wilson theory of island biogeography to determine the degree to which detrital-based organic aggregates (e.g., marine snow, organic detritus, and bioflocs) provide a favorable microhabitat (i.e., an “island”) for bacteria in general, and specifically for aquatic pathogens. Overall, the aggregate-associated microbial communities demonstrated significantly higher rates of metabolic response and functional diversity, and contained higher concentrations of culturable vibrios and fecal indicator bacteria compared to aggregate-free water, supporting the idea that organic aggregates function as microscopic islands.


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