Sediment composition influences spatial variation in the abundance of human pathogen indicator bacteria within an estuarine environment.
ABSTRACT: Faecal contamination of estuarine and coastal waters can pose a risk to human health, particularly in areas used for shellfish production or recreation. Routine microbiological water quality testing highlights areas of faecal indicator bacteria (FIB) contamination within the water column, but fails to consider the abundance of FIB in sediments, which under certain hydrodynamic conditions can become resuspended. Sediments can enhance the survival of FIB in estuarine environments, but the influence of sediment composition on the ecology and abundance of FIB is poorly understood. To determine the relationship between sediment composition (grain size and organic matter) and the abundance of pathogen indicator bacteria (PIB), sediments were collected from four transverse transects of the Conwy estuary, UK. The abundance of culturable Escherichia coli, total coliforms, enterococci, Campylobacter, Salmonella and Vibrio spp. in sediments was determined in relation to sediment grain size, organic matter content, salinity, depth and temperature. Sediments that contained higher proportions of silt and/or clay and associated organic matter content showed significant positive correlations with the abundance of PIB. Furthermore, the abundance of each bacterial group was positively correlated with the presence of all other groups enumerated. Campylobacter spp. were not isolated from estuarine sediments. Comparisons of the number of culturable E. coli, total coliforms and Vibrio spp. in sediments and the water column revealed that their abundance was 281, 433 and 58-fold greater in sediments (colony forming units (CFU)/100g) when compared with the water column (CFU/100ml), respectively. These data provide important insights into sediment compositions that promote the abundance of PIB in estuarine environments, with important implications for the modelling and prediction of public health risk based on sediment resuspension and transport.
Project description:Coastal sediments are an important site for transient and long-term mercury (Hg) storage, and they foster a geochemical environment optimal for Hg methylation. Therefore, efforts have been taken to constrain the role of sediments as a source of methylmercury (MeHg) to the estuarine water column. This study employed the Gust Microcosm Erosion Core system capable of quantifying particle removal from undisturbed cores under measurable shear stress conditions to assess particulate Hg and MeHg exchange between sediments and the water column. Samples were collected from organic-rich and organic-poor sediment types from the mid- and lower Delaware Bay. It was found that bulk sediment samples from organic-rich systems overpredict total Hg and MeHg release to the water column, whereas organic-poor sediments underpredict the exchange. In general, organic-rich sediments in shallow environments have the most impact on surface particle dynamics. There is little evidence to suggest that MeHg formed in the sediments is released to the water column via particulate exchange, and therefore, nonsedimentary sources likely control MeHg levels in this estuarine water column.
Project description:Methylmercury (MeHg) is a contaminant of global concern that bioaccumulates and bioamagnifies in marine food webs. Lower trophic level fauna are important conduits of MeHg from sediment and water to estuarine and coastal fish harvested for human consumption. However, the sources and pathways of MeHg to these coastal fisheries are poorly known particularly the potential for transfer of MeHg from the sediment to biotic compartments. Across a broad gradient of human land impacts, we analyzed MeHg concentrations in food webs at ten estuarine sites in the Northeast US (from the Hackensack Meadowlands, NJ to the Gulf of Maine). MeHg concentrations in water column particulate material, but not in sediments, were predictive of MeHg concentrations in fish (killifish and Atlantic silversides). Moreover, MeHg concentrations were higher in pelagic fauna than in benthic-feeding fauna suggesting that MeHg delivery to the water column from methylation sites from within or outside of the estuary may be an important driver of MeHg bioaccumulation in estuarine pelagic food webs. In contrast, bulk sediment MeHg concentrations were only predictive of concentrations of MeHg in the infaunal worms. Our results across a broad gradient of sites demonstrate that the pathways of MeHg to lower trophic level estuarine organisms are distinctly different between benthic deposit feeders and forage fish. Thus, even in systems with contaminated sediments, transfer of MeHg into estuarine food webs maybe driven more by the efficiency of processes that determine MeHg input and bioavailability in the water column.
Project description:Estuarine sediments are a reservoir for faecal bacteria, such as E. coli, where they reside at greater concentrations and for longer periods than in the overlying water. Faecal bacteria in sediments do not usually pose significant risk to human health until resuspended into the water column, where transmission routes to humans are facilitated. The erosion resistance and corresponding E. coli loading of intertidal estuarine sediments was monitored in two Scottish estuaries to identify sediments that posed a risk of resuspending large amounts of E. coli. In addition, models were constructed in an attempt to identify sediment characteristics leading to higher erosion resistance. Sediments that exhibited low erosion resistance and a high E. coli loading occurred in the upper- and mid-reaches of the estuaries where sediments had higher organic content and smaller particle sizes, and arose predominantly during winter and autumn, with some incidences during summer. Models using sediment characteristics explained 57.2% and 35.7% of sediment shear strength and surface stability variance respectively, with organic matter content and season being important factors for both. However large proportions of the variance remained unexplained. Sediments that posed a risk of resuspending high amounts of faecal bacteria could be characterised by season and sediment type, and this should be considered in the future modelling of bathing water quality.
Project description:Disposal of fecally contaminated poultry litter by land application can deliver pathogens and fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) into receiving waters via runoff. While water quality is regulated by FIB enumeration, FIB testing provides inadequate information about contamination source and health risk. This microbial source tracking (MST) study compared the persistence of the Brevibacterium sp. strain LA35 16S rRNA gene (marker) for poultry litter with that of pathogens and FIB under outdoor, environmentally relevant conditions in freshwater, marine water, and sediments over 7 days. Salmonella enterica, Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter coli, Bacteroidales, and LA35 were enumerated by quantitative PCR (qPCR), and Enterococcus spp. and E. coli were quantified by culture and qPCR. Unlike the other bacteria, C. jejuni was not detectable after 48 h. Bacterial levels in the water column consistently declined over time and were highly correlated among species. Survival in sediments ranged from a slow decrease over time to growth, particularly in marine microcosms and for Bacteroidales. S. enterica also grew in marine sediments. Linear decay rates in water (k) ranged from -0.17 day(-1) for LA35 to -3.12 day(-1) for C. coli. LA35 levels correlated well with those of other bacteria in the water column but not in sediments. These observations suggest that, particularly in the water column, the fate of LA35 in aquatic environments is similar to that of FIB, C. coli, and Salmonella, supporting the hypothesis that the LA35 marker gene can be a useful tool for evaluating the impact of poultry litter on water quality and human health risk.
Project description:To assess fecal pollution in coastal waters, current monitoring is reliant on culture-based enumeration of bacterial indicators, which does not account for the presence of viable but non-culturable or sediment-associated micro-organisms, preventing effective quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA). Seasonal variability in viable but non-culturable or sediment-associated bacteria challenge the use of fecal indicator organisms (FIOs) for water monitoring. We evaluated seasonal changes in FIOs and human enteric pathogen abundance in water and sediments from the Ribble and Conwy estuaries in the UK. Sediments possessed greater bacterial abundance than the overlying water column, however, key pathogenic species (Shigella spp., Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella spp., hepatitis A virus, hepatitis E virus and norovirus GI and GII) were not detected in sediments. Salmonella was detected in low levels in the Conwy water in spring/summer and norovirus GII was detected in the Ribble water in winter. The abundance of E. coli and Enterococcus spp. quantified by culture-based methods, rarely matched the abundance of these species when measured by qPCR. The discrepancy between these methods was greatest in winter at both estuaries, due to low CFU's, coupled with higher gene copies (GC). Temperature accounted for 60% the variability in bacterial abundance in water in autumn, whilst in winter salinity explained 15% of the variance. Relationships between bacterial indicators/pathogens and physicochemical variables were inconsistent in sediments, no single indicator adequately described occurrence of all bacterial indicators/pathogens. However, important variables included grain size, porosity, clay content and concentrations of Zn, K, and Al. Sediments with greater organic matter content and lower porosity harbored a greater proportion of non-culturable bacteria (including dead cells and extracellular DNA) in winter. Here, we show the link between physicochemical variables and season which govern culturability of human enteric pathogens and FIOs. Therefore, knowledge of these factors is critical for accurate microbial risk assessment. Future water quality management strategies could be improved through monitoring sediment-associated bacteria and non-culturable bacteria. This could facilitate source apportionment of human enteric pathogens and FIOs and direct remedial action to improve water quality.
Project description:The abundance of bacterial (AOB) and archaeal (AOA) ammonia oxidisers, assessed using quantitative PCR measurements of their respective a-subunit of the ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) genes, and ammonia oxidation rates were measured in four contrasting coastal sediments in the Western English Channel. Sediment was sampled bimonthly from July 2008 to May 2011, and measurements of ammonia oxidiser abundance and activity compared to a range of environmental variables including salinity, temperature, water column nutrients and sediment carbon and nitrogen content. Despite a higher abundance of AOA amoA genes within all sediments, and at all time-points, rates of ammonia oxidation correlated with AOB and not AOA amoA gene abundance. Other than ammonia oxidation rate, sediment particle size was the only variable that correlated with the spatial and temporal patterns of AOB amoA gene abundance, implying a preference of the AOB for larger sediment particles. This is possibly due to deeper oxygen penetration into the sandier sediments, increasing the area available for ammonia oxidation to occur, higher concentrations of inhibitory sulphide with pore waters of muddier sediments or a combination of both oxygen and sulphide concentrations. Similar to many other temporal studies of nitrification within estuarine and coastal sediments, decreases in AOB amoA gene abundance were evident during summer and autumn, with maximum abundance and ammonia oxidation rates occurring in winter and early spring. The lack of correlation between AOA amoA gene abundance and ammonium oxidation rate suggests an alternative role for amoA-carrying AOA within these sediments. Two color array (Cy3 and Cy5): the universal standard 20-mer oligo is printed to the slide with a 70-mer oligo (an archetype). Environmental DNA sequences (fluoresced with Cy3) within 15% of the 70-mer conjugated to a 20-mer oligo (fluoresced with Cy5) complementary to the universal standard will bind to the oligo probes on the array. Signal is the ratio of Cy3 to Cy5. Three replicate probes were printed for each archetype. Two replicate arrays were run on duplicate targets.
Project description:Estuarine sediments store particulate contaminants including mercury (Hg). We studied Hg sediment dynamics in two intertidal mudflats at Great Bay estuary, NH, over multiple years. Sediments at both mudflats were physically mixed down to ~10 cm, as determined by (7)Be measurements, albeit via different mechanisms. Portsmouth mudflat (PT) sediments were subject to bioturbation by infaunal organisms and Squamscott mudflat (SQ) sediments were subject to erosion and redeposition. The presence of higher concentrations of fresh Fe(III) hydroxide at PT suggested bioirrigation by the polychaetes (Nereis virens). At depths where infaunal bioirrigation was observed, pore-water inorganic Hg (Hgi) and methylmercury (MeHg) were lower potentially due to their interaction with Fe(III) hydroxide. Methylmercury concentrations increased immediately below this zone in some samples, suggesting that the observed increase in material flux in bioirrigated sediments may initiate from lower depths. Pore water in sediment at PT also had higher fractions of more protein-like and labile DOC than those at SQ that can lead to increased MeHg production in PT, especially at depths where Hgi is not removed from solution by Fe(III) hydroxide. Where sediment erosion and redeposition were observed at SQ, Hg species distribution was extended deeper into the sediment column. Moreover, methyl coenzyme M reductase (MCR) and mercury reductase (mer-A) genes were higher at SQ than PT suggesting differences in conditions for Hg cycling. Results showed that the near-surface region of high MeHg concentrations commonly observed in unmixed sediments does not exist in physically mixed sediments that are common in many estuarine environments.
Project description:Ammonia oxidation is a critical process of estuarine nitrogen cycling involving ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB). However, the distribution patterns of ammonia-oxidizing microorganisms (AOMs) between different habitats in the same area remain unclear. The present study investigated the AOMs' abundance and community compositions in both sediment and water habitats of the Yellow River estuary. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) revealed that AOA showed significant higher abundance than AOB both in sediment and water samples. AOA and AOB abundance distribution trends were consistent in sediment but distinct in water along the sampling sites. Clone library-based analyses showed that AOA sequences were affiliated with Nitrososphaera, Nitrosopumilus and Nitrosotalea clusters. Generally, Nitrososphaera was predominant in sediment, while Nitrosopumilus and Nitrosotalea dominated in water column. AOB sequences were classified into genera Nitrosospira and Nitrosomonas, and Nitrosospira dominated in both habitats. Principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) also indicated AOA community structures exhibited significant differences between two habitats, while AOB were not. Ammonium and carbon contents were the potential key factors to influence AOMs' abundance and compositions in sediment, while no measured variables were determined to have major influences on communities in water habitat. These findings increase the understanding of the AOMs' distribution patterns in estuarine ecosystems.
Project description:Lakes worldwide are impacted by eutrophication and harmful algal or cyanobacteria blooms (HABs) due to excessive nutrients, including legacy P released from sediments in shallow lakes. Utah Lake (northern Utah, USA) is a shallow lake with urban development primarily on the east side of the watershed, providing an opportunity to evaluate HABs in relation to a gradient of legacy sediment P. In this study, we investigated sediment composition and P concentrations in sediment, pore water, and the water column in relation to blooms of harmful cyanobacteria species. Sediments on the east side of the lake had P concentrations up to 1710 mg/kg, corresponding to elevated P concentrations in pore water (up to 10.8 mg/L) and overlying water column (up to 1.7 mg/L). Sediment P concentrations were positively correlated with Fe2O3, CaO, and organic matter abundance, and inversely correlated with SiO2, demonstrating the importance of sediment composition for P sorption and mineral precipitation. Although the sediment contained <3% Fe2O3 by weight, approximately half of the sediment P was associated with redox-sensitive Fe oxide/hydroxide minerals that could be released to the water column under reducing conditions. Cyanobacteria cell counts indicate that blooms of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and Dolichospermum flosaquae species tend to occur on the east side of Utah Lake, corresponding to areas with elevated P concentrations in the sediment, pore water, and water column. Our findings suggest that shallow lake eutrophication may be a function of P in legacy sediments that contribute to observed HABs in specific locations of shallow lakes.
Project description:Ecological evidence suggests that heterotrophic diazotrophs fueled by organic carbon respiration in sediments play an important role in marine nitrogen fixation. However, fundamental knowledge about the identities, abundance, diversity, biogeography, and controlling environmental factors of nitrogen-fixing communities in open ocean sediments is still elusive. Surprisingly, little is known also about nitrogen-fixing communities in sediments of the more research-accessible marginal seas. Here we report on an investigation of the environmental geochemistry and putative diazotrophic microbiota in the sediments of Bohai Sea, an eutrophic marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean. Diverse and abundant nifH gene sequences were identified and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) were found to be the dominant putative nitrogen-fixing microbes. Community statistical analyses suggested bottom water temperature, bottom water chlorophyll a content (or the covarying turbidity) and sediment porewater Eh (or the covarying pH) as the most significant environmental factors controlling the structure and spatial distribution of the putative diazotrophic communities, while sediment Hg content, sulfide content, and porewater [Formula: see text]-Si content were identified as the key environmental factors correlated positively with the nifH gene abundance in Bohai Sea sediments. Comparative analyses between the Bohai Sea and the northern South China Sea (nSCS) identified a significant composition difference of the putative diazotrophic communities in sediments between the shallow-water (estuarine and nearshore) and deep-water (offshore and deep-sea) environments, and sediment porewater dissolved oxygen content, water depth and in situ temperature as the key environmental factors tentatively controlling the species composition, community structure, and spatial distribution of the marginal sea sediment nifH-harboring microbiota. This confirms the ecophysiological specialization and niche differentiation between the shallow-water and deep-water sediment diazotrophic communities and suggests that the in situ physical and geochemical conditions play a more important role than geographical contiguity in determining the community similarity of the diazotrophic microbiota in marginal sea sediments.