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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 68:259-266 (2013)  -  DOI:

Spatially varying complexity of bacterial and virus-like particle communities within an aquifer system

Ben Roudnew1,*, Trish J. Lavery1, Justin R. Seymour1,2, Renee J. Smith1, James G. Mitchell1

1School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia
2Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, New South Wales 2007, Australia

ABSTRACT: Hydrological and geological heterogeneity in the subsurface can isolate groundwater bodies in an aquifer system and create hydrologically distinct aquifers overlying each other with varying amounts of water exchange and unknown amounts of biological exchange. The heterogeneous nature of these subsurface waters likely drives changes in groundwater microbiological parameters. In the present study, flow cytometry was used to examine the abundance and cytometrically defined subpopulation structure of bacteria and virus-like particles (VLPs) in 3 distinct, vertically stratified aquifer layers consisting of an unconfined aquifer, a confining layer and a confined aquifer. Despite total microbial abundances remaining constant, the composition of bacterial and VLP communities varied among the aquifer layers. Cytometrically defined subpopulations were defined by nucleic acid content and size and ranged from 1 bacterial and VLP subpopulation in the unconfined aquifer to 4 bacterial and 3 VLP subpopulations in the confined aquifer. This variability in the subpopulation assemblages is likely driven by a combination of hydrological heterogeneity and biological interactions. The results presented here indicate complexity in microbial communities in discrete aquifer layers that may be overlooked when reporting general abundances. Groundwater bacteria and VLPs appear to be a sensitive indicator of the biological dynamics of aquifer systems and may be used to identify heterogeneous water bodies and help distinguish individual aquifer layers in an aquifer system.

KEY WORDS: Bacteria · Virus-like particles · Groundwater · Aquifers · Flow cytometry · Abundance

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Cite this article as: Roudnew B, Lavery TJ, Seymour JR, Smith RJ, Mitchell JG (2013) Spatially varying complexity of bacterial and virus-like particle communities within an aquifer system. Aquat Microb Ecol 68:259-266.

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