Microbial Ecology

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 532–542 | Cite as

Response of Estuarine Biofilm Microbial Community Development to Changes in Dissolved Oxygen and Nutrient Concentrations

  • Andreas Nocker
  • Joe Eugene Lepo
  • Linda Lin Martin
  • Richard Allan SnyderEmail author


The information content and responsiveness of microbial biofilm community structure, as an integrative indicator of water quality, was assessed against short-term changes in oxygen and nutrient loading in an open-water estuarine setting. Biofilms were grown for 7-day periods on artificial substrates in the Pensacola Bay estuary, Florida, in the vicinity of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) outfall and a nearby reference site. Substrates were deployed floating at the surface and near the benthos in 5.4 m of water. Three sampling events covered a 1-month period coincident with declining seasonal WWTP flow and increasing dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the bottom waters. Biomass accumulation in benthic biofilms appeared to be controlled by oxygen rather than nutrients. The overriding effect of DO was also seen in DNA fingerprints of community structure by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) of amplified 16S rRNA genes. Ribotype diversity in benthic biofilms at both sites dramatically increased during the transition from hypoxic to normoxic. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns showed pronounced differences between benthic and surface biofilm communities from the same site in terms of signal type, strength, and diversity, but minor differences between sites. Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene clone libraries from benthic biofilms at the WWTP site suggested that low DO levels favored sulfate-reducing prokaryotes (SRP), which decreased with rising oxygen levels and increasing overall diversity. A 91-bp ribotype in the CfoI-restricted 16S rRNA gene T-RFLP profiles, indicative of SRP, tracked the decrease in relative SRP abundance over time.


Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Oyster Reef Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Pattern Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Profile Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Pattern 
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.



We thank Jeff Alison, Laura Pennington, Natasha Rondon, and Matt Wagner for their field assistance and Melissa Hagy for the data management.

This research was supported by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Estuarine and Great Lakes (EaGLe) Coastal Initiative through funding to the CEER-GOM Project, US EPA Agreement EPA/R-8294580.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Nocker
    • 1
  • Joe Eugene Lepo
    • 1
  • Linda Lin Martin
    • 1
  • Richard Allan Snyder
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Center for Environmental Diagnostics and BioremediationUniversity of West FloridaPensacolaUSA

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