Microbial Ecology

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 31–48

Microbial communities in the saturated groundwater environment II: Diversity of bacterial communities in a Pleistocene sand aquifer and their in vitro activities


  • Jutta Kölbel-Boelke
    • FB 2, MikrobiologieUniversität Bremen
  • Eva -Maria Anders
    • FB 2, MikrobiologieUniversität Bremen
  • Alexander Nehrkorn
    • FB 2, MikrobiologieUniversität Bremen

DOI: 10.1007/BF02097403

Cite this article as:
Kölbel-Boelke, J., Anders, E.-. & Nehrkorn, A. Microb Ecol (1988) 16: 31. doi:10.1007/BF02097403


Bacterial cell numbers obtained from 103 water and sediment samples from a Pleistocene sandy aquifer in the Lower Rhine region (Bocholt, FRG) were determinated on P-agar and by direct count. Below 5 m under the surface, colony-forming unit (cfu) numbers in water samples were less than 100/ml, and in many cases less than 50/ml. In sediment samples, they were 10- to 100-fold higher (102−104 cfu/g dry wt), but changing markedly between different depths. Direct cell counts yielded numbers two to three orders of magnitude higher.

About 2,700 strains of bacteria from 60 samples were isolated randomly and characterized by morphological and physiological properties. Of all the isolates, 71.6% were gram-negative, and 52.2% were gram-negative straight rods. Water communities, with one exception, had low proportions of gram-positive bacteria (<11%), whereas in all but one of the sediment communities percentages of gram-positive isolates were three- to sevenfold higher (35–43%). Water and sediment communities, as well as communities from different sampling sites and communities from different depths of the same sampling site, differed in their qualitative and quantitative morphotype composition and physiological capabilities.

The in vitro activities of strains within a single community were quite different, indicating that each community is composed of many diverse bacteria, several having extremely different capabilities. Thus, each community has its own specific activity pattern. Gram-positive bacteria showed on an average lower total activities than did gram-negative bacteria. Grampositive bacteria as well as gram-negative bacteria from sediment had higher values of in vitro activities than the corresponding groups isolated from water. Many water and sediment bacteria preferred the same substrates which were utilized at high rates. However, there were differences in the degradation of the various other substrates present, and each community showed preferences for particular substrates, which they degraded best.

The results of cell morphology and physiology studies indicated that all eight characterized communities were very different from one another and very diversely structured.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1988