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Microbial community shifts in streams receiving treated wastewater effluent


Mansfeldt, Cresten; Deiner, Kristy; Mächler, Elvira; Fenner, Kathrin; Eggen, Rik I L; Stamm, Christian; Schönenberger, Urs; Walser, Jean-Claude; Altermatt, Florian (2020). Microbial community shifts in streams receiving treated wastewater effluent. Science of the Total Environment, 709:135727.

Abstract

Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents release not only chemical constituents in watersheds, but also contain microorganisms. Thus, an understanding of what microorganisms are released and how they change microbial communities within natural streams is needed. To characterize the community shifts in streams receiving WWTP effluent, we sampled water-column microorganisms from upstream, downstream, and the effluent of WWTPs located on 23 headwater streams in which no other effluent was released upstream. We characterized the bacterial community by sequencing the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. We hypothesized that the downstream community profile would be a hydraulic mixture between the two sources (i.e., upstream and effluent). In ordination analyses, the downstream bacterial community profile was a mixture between the upstream and effluent. For 14 of the sites, the main contribution (&gt;50%) to the downstream community originated from bacteria in the WWTP effluent and significant shifts in relative abundance of specific sequence variants were detected. These shifts in sequence variants may serve as general bioindicators of wastewater-effluent influenced streams, with a human-gut related <em>Ruminococcus</em> genus displaying the highest shift (30-fold higher abundances downstream). However, not all taxa composition changes were predicted based on hydraulic mixing alone. Specifically, the decrease of <em>Cyanobacteria</em>/Chloroplast reads was not adequately described by hydraulic mixing. The potential alteration of stream microbial communities via a high inflow of human-gut related bacteria and a decrease in autotrophic functional groups resulting from WWTP effluent creates the potential for general shifts in stream ecosystem function.

Abstract

Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents release not only chemical constituents in watersheds, but also contain microorganisms. Thus, an understanding of what microorganisms are released and how they change microbial communities within natural streams is needed. To characterize the community shifts in streams receiving WWTP effluent, we sampled water-column microorganisms from upstream, downstream, and the effluent of WWTPs located on 23 headwater streams in which no other effluent was released upstream. We characterized the bacterial community by sequencing the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. We hypothesized that the downstream community profile would be a hydraulic mixture between the two sources (i.e., upstream and effluent). In ordination analyses, the downstream bacterial community profile was a mixture between the upstream and effluent. For 14 of the sites, the main contribution (&gt;50%) to the downstream community originated from bacteria in the WWTP effluent and significant shifts in relative abundance of specific sequence variants were detected. These shifts in sequence variants may serve as general bioindicators of wastewater-effluent influenced streams, with a human-gut related <em>Ruminococcus</em> genus displaying the highest shift (30-fold higher abundances downstream). However, not all taxa composition changes were predicted based on hydraulic mixing alone. Specifically, the decrease of <em>Cyanobacteria</em>/Chloroplast reads was not adequately described by hydraulic mixing. The potential alteration of stream microbial communities via a high inflow of human-gut related bacteria and a decrease in autotrophic functional groups resulting from WWTP effluent creates the potential for general shifts in stream ecosystem function.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry
Dewey Decimal Classification:540 Chemistry
Language:English
Date:20 March 2020
Deposited On:16 Jan 2020 09:33
Last Modified:08 Mar 2020 06:54
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0048-9697
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135727

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