Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 216, Issue 1–4, pp 167–178 | Cite as

Escherichia coli and Enterococci Attachment to Particles in Runoff from Highly and Sparsely Vegetated Grassland

  • Michelle L. SoupirEmail author
  • Saied Mostaghimi


Limited data on microbial partitioning between the freely suspended and particulate attached phases during transport along overland flow pathways have resulted in high uncertainty in bacterial fate and transport models and the application of these models to watershed management plans. The objectives of this study were to examine differences in attachment between E. coli and enterococci in runoff from plots with highly and sparsely vegetated grassland; investigate relations between flow regime, total suspended solids, and E. coli and enterococci attachment; and identify the particle size categories to which the attached cells were associated. Two rainfall simulations were conducted on large field plots 3 m wide by 18.3 m long with highly and both highly and sparsely vegetated covers and treated with standard cowpats. Results from the first experiment representing pasture with highly vegetated cover indicate that the majority of E. coli and enterococci are transported from the fresh manure source in the unattached state with only 4.8% of E. coli and 13% of enterococci associated with particles. The second experiment which compared partitioning in runoff from both highly and sparsely vegetated covers found lower bacterial attachment rates: the average E. coli percent attached was 0.06% from plots with highly vegetated cover and 2.8% from plots with sparsely vegetated cover while the corresponding values for enterococci were 0.98% and 1.23%, respectively. The findings from this study provide the first set of data on bacterial partitioning in overland flow from large field plots, and results may be helpful for parameterizing water quality models and designing conservation practices.


Escherichia coli Enterococci Microbial partitioning Nonpoint source pollution Water quality 



The authors would like to thank Laura Teany, Jaepil Cho, Steven Soupir, and Julie Jordan for assistance with plot construction, sample collection, and analysis. This work is partially supported by the US Department of Agriculture–Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate Fellowship Grants Program; Virginia Tech Graduate School; National Science Foundation ADVANCE Grant No. SBE-0244916; and EPA Science to Achieve Results Fellowship No. 91677501-0.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agricultural and Biosystems EngineeringIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Biological Systems EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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