Letter

Attached biofilms and suspended aggregates are distinct microbial lifestyles emanating from differing hydraulics

  • Nature Microbiology 1, Article number: 16178 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.178
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Abstract

Small-scale hydraulics affects microbial behaviour at the cell level1, trophic interactions in marine aggregates2 and the physical structure and function of stream biofilms3,4. However, it remains unclear how hydraulics, predictably changing from small streams to large rivers, impacts the structure and biodiversity of complex microbial communities in these ecosystems. Here, we present experimental evidence unveiling hydraulics as a hitherto poorly recognized control of microbial lifestyle differentiation in fluvial ecosystems. Exposing planktonic source communities from stream and floodplain ecosystems to different hydraulic environments revealed strong selective hydraulic pressures but only minor founder effects on the differentiation of attached biofilms and suspended aggregates and their biodiversity dynamics. Key taxa with a coherent phylogenetic underpinning drove this differentiation. Only a few resident and phylogenetically related taxa formed the backbone of biofilm communities, whereas numerous resident taxa characterized aggregate communities. Our findings unveil fundamental differences between biofilms and aggregates and build the basis for a mechanistic understanding of how hydraulics drives the distribution of microbial diversity along the fluvial continuum5,​6,​7.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank P. Pramateftaki and A. Gernand for assistance in the laboratory. Financial support was provided by the Austrian Science Fund (START Y420-B17) to T.J.B. and from internal funding from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) to R.N.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Stream Biofilm and Ecosystem Research Laboratory, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

    • Robert Niederdorfer
    • , Hannes Peter
    •  & Tom J. Battin
  2. Department of Limnology and Oceanography, University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

    • Robert Niederdorfer

Authors

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Contributions

R.N. together with T.J.B., conceived and conducted the experiments and the analyses. R.N., together with H.P., conducted bioinformatical and statistical analyses. T.J.B. wrote the paper with help from R.N. and H.P.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tom J. Battin.

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary information

    Supplementary Figures 1–7, Supplementary Tables 1–2