Effects of Deposit-Feeding Macrofauna on Benthic Bacteria, Viruses, and Protozoa in a Silty Freshwater Sediment
In microcosm experiments, we simultaneously tested the effects of increased numbers of deposit-feeding macrofauna (chironomids, oligochaetes and cladocerans) on the standing stock, activities and interactions of heterotrophic bacteria, viruses, and bacterivorous protozoa (heterotrophic nanoflagellates and ciliates) in the aerobic layer of a silty littoral freshwater sediment. On average, bacterial secondary production was stimulated between 11 and 29% by all macrofaunal groups compared to control experiments without macrofauna addition. Bacterial standing stock increased significantly by 8 and 13% in case of chironomids and cladocerans, respectively. Oligochaetes and chironomids produced significant negative effects on viral abundance while the results with cladocerans were inconsistent. The addition of oligochaetes and chironomids resulted in a significant decrease by on average 68 and 32% of viral decay rates, respectively, used as a measure of viral production. The calculated contribution of virus-induced lysis to benthic bacterial mortality was low, with 2.8 to 11.8% of bacterial secondary production, and decreased by 39 to 81% after the addition of macrofauna compared to the control. The abundances of heterotrophic nanoflagellates were significantly reduced by 20% by all tested macrofauna groups, while ciliates showed inconsistent results. The importance of heterotrophic nanoflagellate grazing on benthic bacteria was very low (<1% of bacterial secondary production) and was further reduced by elevated numbers of macrofauna. Thus, the selected deposit feeding macrofauna groups seem to have several direct and indirect and partly antagonistic effects on the benthic bacterial compartment through the enhancement of bacterial production and the reduction of virus-induced cell lysis and protozoan grazing.
This study was financed by the Austrian Fonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF), projects No. P14220-BIO and No. P17246-BO3. Special thanks to Prof. Michael Kundi (Center for Public Health, Medical University Vienna) for his help in statistical analysis and three anonymous reviewers for significant improvements of the manuscript.
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