Microbial Ecology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 127–138 | Cite as

Physical determinants of microbial colonization and decomposition of plant litter in an Arctic Lake

  • Thomas W. Federle
  • Vicky L. McKinley
  • J. Robie Vestal


Physical effects on the microbial colonization and decomposition of plant litter in an oligotrophic lake were studied in Toolik Lake, Alaska. Colonization, measured by adenosine triphosphate (ATP) analysis, and decomposition, measured by weight loss, were correlated with depth of incubation, light, and temperature. The effects of turbulence, light, and temperature were studied in microcosm experiments. A 10°C increase (above ambient) in temperature caused a doubling in the amount of microbial colonization and a 50% increase in decomposition. Light intensity had no quantitative effect on either colonization or decomposition. Turbulence experiments conducted in Toolik Lake showed significant differences in decomposition between natural turbulence and no turbulence. Elevated temperature (20°C, which was 10°C above ambient), high turbulence, and total darkness changed the composition of the litter microbiota, causing a shift from a bacterially dominated microbiota to one dominated by large filamentous forms, as revealed by scanning electron microscopy. This study shows the importance of these physical factors in determining the rate at which plant litter is colonized and degraded in aquatic environments.


Scanning Electron Microscopy Adenosine Aquatic Environment Triphosphate Physical Effect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas W. Federle
    • 1
  • Vicky L. McKinley
    • 1
  • J. Robie Vestal
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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