Diversity of Benthic Biofilms Along a Land Use Gradient in Tropical Headwater Streams, Puerto Rico
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- Burgos-Caraballo, S., Cantrell, S.A. & Ramírez, A. Microb Ecol (2014) 68: 47. doi:10.1007/s00248-014-0401-x
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The properties of freshwater ecosystems can be altered, directly or indirectly, by different land uses (e.g., urbanization and agriculture). Streams heavily influenced by high nutrient concentrations associated with agriculture or urbanization may present conditions that can be intolerable for many aquatic species such as macroinvertebrates and fishes. However, information with respect to how benthic microbial communities may respond to changes in stream ecosystem properties in relation to agricultural or urban land uses is limited, in particular for tropical ecosystems. In this study, diversity of benthic biofilms was evaluated in 16 streams along a gradient of land use at the Turabo watershed in Puerto Rico using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism. Diversity indices and community structure descriptors (species richness, Shannon diversity, dominance and evenness) were calculated for both bacteria and eukaryotes for each stream. Diversity of both groups, bacteria and eukaryotes, did not show a consistent pattern with land use, since it could be high or low at streams dominated by different land uses. This suggests that diversity of biofilms may be more related to site-specific conditions rather than watershed scale factors. To assess this contention, the relationship between biofilm diversity and reach-scale parameters (i.e., nutrient concentrations, canopy cover, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen) was determined using the Akaike Information Criterion (AICc) for small sample size. Results indicated that nitrate was the variable that best explained variations in biofilm diversity. Since nitrate concentrations tend to increase with urban land use, our results suggest that urbanization may indeed increase microbial diversity indirectly by increasing nutrients in stream water.