3 years ago

The role of hydrodynamics in shaping the composition and architecture of epilithic biofilms in fluvial ecosystems

The role of hydrodynamics in shaping the composition and architecture of epilithic biofilms in fluvial ecosystems
Previous laboratory and on-site experiments have highlighted the importance of hydrodynamics in shaping biofilm composition and architecture. In how far responses to hydrodynamics can be found in natural flows under the complex interplay of environmental factors is still unknown. In this study we investigated the effect of near streambed turbulence in terms of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) on the composition and architecture of biofilms matured in two mountainous streams differing in dissolved nutrient concentrations. Over both streams, TKE significantly explained 7% and 8% of the variability in biofilm composition and architecture, respectively. However, effects were more pronounced in the nutrient richer stream, where TKE significantly explained 12% and 3% of the variability in biofilm composition and architecture, respectively. While at lower nutrient concentrations seasonally varying factors such as stoichiometry of dissolved nutrients (N/P ratio) and light were more important and explained 41% and 6% of the variability in biofilm composition and architecture, respectively. Specific biofilm features such as elongated ripples and streamers, which were observed in response to the uniform and unidirectional flow in experimental settings, were not observed. Microbial biovolume and surface area covered by the biofilm canopy increased with TKE, while biofilm thickness and porosity where not affected or decreased. These findings indicate that under natural flows where near bed flow velocities and turbulence intensities fluctuate with time and space, biofilms became more compact. They spread uniformly on the mineral surface as a film of densely packed coccoid cells appearing like cobblestone pavement. The compact growth of biofilms seemed to be advantageous for resisting hydrodynamic shear forces in order to avoid displacement. Thus, near streambed turbulence can be considered as important factor shaping the composition and architecture of biofilms grown under natural flows.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0043135417308151

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