Bacterial community composition of stream biofilms in spatially variable-flow environments.
ABSTRACT: Streams are highly heterogeneous ecosystems, in terms of both geomorphology and hydrodynamics. While flow is recognized to shape the physical architecture of benthic biofilms, we do not yet understand what drives community assembly and biodiversity of benthic biofilms in the heterogeneous flow landscapes of streams. Within a metacommunity ecology framework, we experimented with streambed landscapes constructed from bedforms in large-scale flumes to illuminate the role of spatial flow heterogeneity in biofilm community composition and biodiversity in streams. Our results show that the spatial variation of hydrodynamics explained a remarkable percentage (up to 47%) of the variation in community composition along bedforms. This suggests species sorting as a model of metacommunity dynamics in stream biofilms, though natural biofilm communities will clearly not conform to a single model offered by metacommunity ecology. The spatial variation induced by the hydrodynamics along the bedforms resulted in a gradient of bacterial beta diversity, measured by a range of diversity and similarity indices, that increased with bedform height and hence with spatial flow heterogeneity at the flume level. Our results underscore the necessity to maintain small-scale physical heterogeneity for community composition and biodiversity of biofilms in stream ecosystems.
Project description:Under the ongoing climate change, understanding the mechanisms structuring the spatial distribution of aquatic species in glacial stream networks is of critical importance to predict the response of aquatic biodiversity in the face of glacier melting. In this study, we propose to use metacommunity theory as a conceptual framework to better understand how river network structure influences the spatial organization of aquatic communities in glacierized catchments. At 51 stream sites in an Andean glacierized catchment (Ecuador), we sampled benthic macroinvertebrates, measured physico-chemical and food resource conditions, and calculated geographical, altitudinal and glaciality distances among all sites. Using partial redundancy analysis, we partitioned community variation to evaluate the relative strength of environmental conditions (e.g., glaciality, food resource) vs. spatial processes (e.g., overland, watercourse, and downstream directional dispersal) in organizing the aquatic metacommunity. Results revealed that both environmental and spatial variables significantly explained community variation among sites. Among all environmental variables, the glacial influence component best explained community variation. Overland spatial variables based on geographical and altitudinal distances significantly affected community variation. Watercourse spatial variables based on glaciality distances had a unique significant effect on community variation. Within alpine catchment, glacial meltwater affects macroinvertebrate metacommunity structure in many ways. Indeed, the harsh environmental conditions characterizing glacial influence not only constitute the primary environmental filter but also, limit water-borne macroinvertebrate dispersal. Therefore, glacier runoff acts as an aquatic dispersal barrier, isolating species in headwater streams, and preventing non-adapted species to colonize throughout the entire stream network. Under a scenario of glacier runoff decrease, we expect a reduction in both environmental filtering and dispersal limitation, inducing a taxonomic homogenization of the aquatic fauna in glacierized catchments as well as the extinction of specialized species in headwater groundwater and glacier-fed streams, and consequently an irreversible reduction in regional diversity.
Project description:Streams and rivers form conspicuous networks on the Earth and are among nature's most effective integrators. Their dendritic structure reaches into the terrestrial landscape and accumulates water and sediment en route from abundant headwater streams to a single river mouth. The prevailing view over the last decades has been that biological diversity also accumulates downstream. Here, we show that this pattern does not hold for fluvial biofilms, which are the dominant mode of microbial life in streams and rivers and which fulfil critical ecosystem functions therein. Using 454 pyrosequencing on benthic biofilms from 114 streams, we found that microbial diversity decreased from headwaters downstream and especially at confluences. We suggest that the local environment and biotic interactions may modify the influence of metacommunity connectivity on local biofilm biodiversity throughout the network. In addition, there was a high degree of variability in species composition among headwater streams that could not be explained by geographical distance between catchments. This suggests that the dendritic nature of fluvial networks constrains the distributional patterns of microbial diversity similar to that of animals. Our observations highlight the contributions that headwaters make in the maintenance of microbial biodiversity in fluvial networks.
Project description:Stream metacommunities are structured by a combination of local (environmental filtering) and regional (dispersal) processes. The unique characters of high mountain streams could potentially determine metacommunity structuring, which is currently poorly understood. Aiming at understanding how these characters influenced metacommunity structuring, we explored the relative importance of local environmental conditions and various dispersal processes, including through geographical (overland), topographical (across mountain barriers) and network (along flow direction) pathways in shaping benthic diatom communities. From a trait perspective, diatoms were categorized into high-profile, low-profile and motile guild to examine the roles of functional traits. Our results indicated that both environmental filtering and dispersal processes influenced metacommunity structuring, with dispersal contributing more than environmental processes. Among the three pathways, stream corridors were primary pathway. Deconstructive analysis suggested different responses to environmental and spatial factors for each of three ecological guilds. However, regardless of traits, dispersal among streams was limited by mountain barriers, while dispersal along stream was promoted by rushing flow in high mountain stream. Our results highlighted that directional processes had prevailing effects on metacommunity structuring in high mountain streams. Flow directionality, mountain barriers and ecological guilds contributed to a better understanding of the roles that mountains played in structuring metacommunity.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Evidence increasingly shows that stream ecosystems greatly contribute to global carbon fluxes. This involves a tight coupling between biofilms, the dominant form of microbial life in streams, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC), a very significant pool of organic carbon on Earth. Yet, the interactions between microbial biodiversity and the molecular diversity of resource use are poorly understood. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Using six 40-m-long streamside flumes, we created a gradient of streambed landscapes with increasing spatial flow heterogeneity to assess how physical heterogeneity, inherent to streams, affects biofilm diversity and DOC use. We determined bacterial biodiversity in all six landscapes using 16S-rRNA fingerprinting and measured carbon uptake from glucose and DOC experimentally injected to all six flumes. The diversity of DOC molecules removed from the water was determined from ultrahigh-resolution Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS). Bacterial beta diversity, glucose and DOC uptake, and the molecular diversity of DOC use all increased with increasing flow heterogeneity. Causal modeling and path analyses of the experimental data revealed that the uptake of glucose was largely driven by physical processes related to flow heterogeneity, whereas biodiversity effects, such as complementarity, most likely contributed to the enhanced uptake of putatively recalcitrant DOC compounds in the streambeds with higher flow heterogeneity. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results suggest biophysical mechanisms, including hydrodynamics and microbial complementarity effects, through which physical heterogeneity induces changes of resource use and carbon fluxes in streams. These findings highlight the importance of fine-scale streambed heterogeneity for microbial biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in streams, where homogenization and loss of habitats increasingly reduce biodiversity.
Project description:While glaciers become increasingly recognised as a habitat for diverse and active microbial communities, effects of their climate change-induced retreat on the microbial ecology of glacier-fed streams remain elusive. Understanding the effect of climate change on microorganisms in these ecosystems is crucial given that microbial biofilms control numerous stream ecosystem processes with potential implications for downstream biodiversity and biogeochemistry. Here, using a space-for-time substitution approach across 26 Alpine glaciers, we show how microbial community composition and diversity, based on 454-pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, in biofilms of glacier-fed streams may change as glaciers recede. Variations in streamwater geochemistry correlated with biofilm community composition, even at the phylum level. The most dominant phyla detected in glacial habitats were Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Cyanobacteria/chloroplasts. Microorganisms from ice had the lowest ? diversity and contributed marginally to biofilm and streamwater community composition. Rather, streamwater apparently collected microorganisms from various glacial and non-glacial sources forming the upstream metacommunity, thereby achieving the highest ? diversity. Biofilms in the glacier-fed streams had intermediate ? diversity and species sorting by local environmental conditions likely shaped their community composition. ? diversity of streamwater and biofilm communities decreased with elevation, possibly reflecting less diverse sources of microorganisms upstream in the catchment. In contrast, ? diversity of biofilms decreased with increasing streamwater temperature, suggesting that glacier retreat may contribute to the homogenisation of microbial communities among glacier-fed streams.
Project description:Because of inadequate knowledge and funding, the use of biodiversity indicators is often suggested as a way to support management decisions. Consequently, many studies have analyzed the performance of certain groups as indicator taxa. However, in addition to knowing whether certain groups can adequately represent the biodiversity as a whole, we must also know whether they show similar responses to the main structuring processes affecting biodiversity. Here we present an application of the metacommunity framework for evaluating the effectiveness of biodiversity indicators. Although the metacommunity framework has contributed to a better understanding of biodiversity patterns, there is still limited discussion about its implications for conservation and biomonitoring. We evaluated the effectiveness of indicator taxa in representing spatial variation in macroinvertebrate community composition in Atlantic Forest streams, and the processes that drive this variation. We focused on analyzing whether some groups conform to environmental processes and other groups are more influenced by spatial processes, and on how this can help in deciding which indicator group or groups should be used. We showed that a relatively small subset of taxa from the metacommunity would represent 80% of the variation in community composition shown by the entire metacommunity. Moreover, this subset does not have to be composed of predetermined taxonomic groups, but rather can be defined based on random subsets. We also found that some random subsets composed of a small number of genera performed better in responding to major environmental gradients. There were also random subsets that seemed to be affected by spatial processes, which could indicate important historical processes. We were able to integrate in the same theoretical and practical framework, the selection of biodiversity surrogates, indicators of environmental conditions, and more importantly, an explicit integration of environmental and spatial processes into the selection approach.
Project description:Resources structure ecological communities and potentially link biodiversity to energy flow. It is commonly believed that functional traits (generalists versus specialists) involved in the exploitation of resources depend on resource availability and environmental fluctuations. The longitudinal nature of stream ecosystems provides changing resources to stream biota with yet unknown effects on microbial functional traits and community structure. We investigated the impact of autochthonous (algal extract) and allochthonous (spruce extract) resources, as they change along alpine streams from above to below the treeline, on microbial diversity, community composition and functions of benthic biofilms. Combining bromodeoxyuridine labelling and 454 pyrosequencing, we showed that diversity was lower upstream than downstream of the treeline and that community composition changed along the altitudinal gradient. We also found that, especially for allochthonous resources, specialisation by biofilm bacteria increased along that same gradient. Our results suggest that in streams below the treeline biofilm diversity, specialisation and functioning are associated with increasing niche differentiation as potentially modulated by divers allochthonous and autochthonous constituents contributing to resources. These findings expand our current understanding on biofilm structure and function in alpine streams.
Project description:The loss of environmental heterogeneity threatens biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. It is therefore important to understand the relationship between environmental heterogeneity and spatial resilience as the capacity of ecological communities embedded in a landscape matrix to reorganize following disturbance. We experimented with phototrophic biofilms colonizing streambed landscapes differing in spatial heterogeneity and exposed to flow-induced disturbance. We show how streambed roughness and related features promote growth-related trait diversity and the recovery of biofilms towards carrying capacity (CC) and spatial resilience. At the scale of streambed landscapes, roughness and exposure to water flow promoted biofilm CC and growth trait diversity. Structural equation modelling identified roughness, post-disturbance biomass and a 'neighbourhood effect' to drive biofilm CC. Our findings suggest that the environment selecting for adaptive capacities prior to disturbance (that is, memory effects) and biofilm connectivity into spatial networks (that is, mobile links) contribute to the spatial resilience of biofilms in streambed landscapes. These findings are critical given the key functions biofilms fulfil in streams, now increasingly experiencing shifts in sedimentary and hydrological regimes.
Project description:Recent studies highlight linkages among the architecture of ecological networks, their persistence facing environmental disturbance, and the related patterns of biodiversity. A hitherto unresolved question is whether the structure of the landscape inhabited by organisms leaves an imprint on their ecological networks. We analyzed, based on pyrosequencing profiling of the biofilm communities in 114 streams, how features inherent to fluvial networks affect the co-occurrence networks that the microorganisms form in these biofilms. Our findings suggest that hydrology and metacommunity dynamics, both changing predictably across fluvial networks, affect the fragmentation of the microbial co-occurrence networks throughout the fluvial network. The loss of taxa from co-occurrence networks demonstrates that the removal of gatekeepers disproportionately contributed to network fragmentation, which has potential implications for the functions biofilms fulfill in stream ecosystems. Our findings are critical because of increased anthropogenic pressures deteriorating stream ecosystem integrity and biodiversity.
Project description:Metacommunity ecology recognizes the interplay between local and regional patterns in contributing to spatial variation in community structure. In aquatic systems, the relative importance of such patterns depends mainly on the potential connectivity of the specific system. Thus, connectivity is expected to increase in relation to the degree of water movement, and to depend on the specific traits of the study organism. We examined the role of environmental and spatial factors in structuring benthic communities from a highly connected shallow beach network using a metacommunity approach. Both factors contributed to a varying degree to the structure of the local communities suggesting that environmental filters and dispersal-related mechanisms played key roles in determining abundance patterns. We categorized benthic taxa according to their dispersal mode (passive vs. active) and habitat specialization (generalist vs. specialist) to understand the relative importance of environment and dispersal related processes for shallow beach metacommunities. Passive dispersers were predicted by a combination of environmental and spatial factors, whereas active dispersers were not spatially structured and responded only to local environmental factors. Generalists were predicted primarily by spatial factors, while specialists were only predicted by local environmental factors. The results suggest that the role of the spatial component in metacommunity organization is greater in open coastal waters, such as shallow beaches, compared to less-connected environmentally controlled aquatic systems. Our results also reveal a strong environmental role in structuring the benthic metacommunity of shallow beaches. Specifically, we highlight the sensitivity of shallow beach macrofauna to environmental factors related to eutrophication proxies.