Microbial responses to changes in flow status in temporary headwater streams: a cross-system comparison

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  • Microbial communities are responsible for the bulk of biogeochemical processing in temporary headwater streams, yet there is still relatively little known about how community structure and function respond to periodic drying. Moreover, the ability to sample temporary habitats can be a logistical challenge due to the limited capability to measure and predict the timing, intensity and frequency of wet-dry events. Unsurprisingly, published datasets on microbial community structure and function are limited in scope and temporal resolution and vary widely in the molecular methods applied. We compared environmental and microbial community datasets for permanent and temporary tributaries of two different North American headwater stream systems: Speed River (Ontario, Canada) and Parkers Creek (Maryland, USA). We explored whether taxonomic diversity and community composition were altered as a result of flow permanence and compared community composition amongst streams using different 16S microbial community methods (i.e., T-RFLP and Illumina MiSeq). Contrary to our hypotheses, and irrespective of method, community composition did not respond strongly to drying. In both systems, community composition was related to site rather than drying condition. Additional network analysis on the Parkers Creek dataset indicated a shift in the central microbial relationships between temporary and permanent streams. In the permanent stream at Parkers Creek, associations of methanotrophic taxa were most dominant, whereas associations with taxa from the order Nitrospirales were more dominant in the temporary stream, particularly during dry conditions. We compared these results with existing published studies from around the world and found a wide range in community responses to drying. We conclude by proposing three hypotheses that may address contradictory results and, when tested across systems, may expand understanding of the responses of microbial communities in temporary streams to natural and human-induced fluctuations in flow-status and permanence.
  • Keywords: bacterial diversity, microbial ecology, operational taxonomic unit (OTU), temporary streams
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  • Febria, C. M., Hosen, J. D., Crump, B. C., Palmer, M. A., & Williams, D. D. (2015). Microbial responses to changes in flow status in temporary headwater streams: a cross-system comparison. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6, 522. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2015.00522
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  • 6
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  • Our thanks to the American Chestnut Land Trust and the Mackenzie and Dewar families for support and access to their properties for this research. This work was supported by funding to JH from the following sources: the Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Graduate Program of the University of Maryland (UMD), the office of the Provost, (UMD); a Drach-Mellody Navigator Award from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory; a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) (Award No. DEB-1210516). Funding was provided to MP from SESYNC (NSF Award No. DBI-1052875), NOAA (Grant No. NA10OAR431220), and the Environmental Protection Agency (GS-10E-0502N). Funding to CF and MP provided by US NAKFI (ES-12). Funding was provided to CF by NSERC Canada (Canada Graduate Scholarship), Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and additional research grants from the U of T Centre for Global Change Science Graduate, Sigma Xi GIAR, and the North American Benthological Society (Society for Freshwater Science).



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