Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, 229:397 | Cite as

Microbial Community Diversity as a Potential Bioindicator of AMD and Steel Plant Effluent in a Channelled Valley Bottom Wetland

  • K. Staebe
  • M. Botes
  • T. MadlalaEmail author
  • P. J. Oberholster
  • T. E. Cloete


Freshwater resources in semi-arid countries are under constant threat from pollution. One of the major pollutants is acid mine drainage (AMD), which not only lowers the pH of the water, but contains high sulphuric acid and high metal concentrations. Bacteria and algae are the first organisms to respond to stressors such as reduced pH and high metal concentrations. The bacterial community in a natural freshwater wetland impacted by AMD and steel plant effluent was identified, with the objective to include bacterial indicator communities in an ecotoxicological screening tool for wetland ecosystem health estimation. Five study sites at the Grootspruit canal valley bottom wetland in Mpumalanga, South Africa, were identified as case study areas which include a reference site and four AMD-impacted sites displaying various degrees of degradation. Physical, chemical and microbiological parameters were measured at each site. The bacterial community was sampled from both the water column and bottom sediment and subjected to next-generation sequencing for identification. The bacterial diversity was high, even at the most impacted sites. The phyla that were predominant in all the samples were the alpha-, beta- and gamma-Proteobacteria and Bacteriodetes. The bacterial based bio-assessment tool scored the reference site as mostly unaffected by anthropogenic impacts, while the AMD and steel plant effluent-impacted sites were classified as modified to severely modify. The outcome of the study showed that the proposed bacterial bioindicators can potentially be employed as part of the ecotoxicological screening tool to determine wetland ecosystem health.


Microbial diversity Wetland ecosystem health Anthropogenic impacts 



The authors express their sincere gratitude to co-workers for helping with the sampling and Coaltech for providing funding for the project. The authors also thank the unknown referees for critically reviewing the manuscript and suggesting useful changes.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.CSIR Natural Resources and the EnvironmentStellenboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of the Western CapeBellvilleSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of Botany and ZoologyUniversity of StellenboschStellenboschSouth Africa

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