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Institut für Wasser- und Umweltsystemmodellierung - IWS



"The stabilisation potential of individual and mixed assemblages of natural bacteria and microalgae "

It is recognized that microorganisms inhabiting natural sediments significantly mediate the erosive response of the bed (ecosystem engineers) through the secretion of naturally adhesive organic material (EPS: extracellular polymeric substances). However, little is known about the individual engineering capability of the main biofilm components (heterotrophic bacteria and autotrophic microalgae) in terms of their individual contribution to the EPS pool and their relative functional contribution to substratum stabilisation. This paper investigates the engineering effects on a non-cohesive test bed as the surface was colonised by natural benthic assemblages (prokaryotic, eukaryotic and mixed cultures) of bacteria and microalgae. MagPI (Magnetic Particle Induction) and CSM (Cohesive Strength Meter) respectively determined the adhesive capacity and the cohesive strength of the culture surface. Stabilisation was significantly higher for the bacterial assemblages (up to a factor of 2) than for axenic microalgal assemblages. The EPS concentration and the EPS composition (carbohydrates and proteins) were both important in determining stabilisation. The peak of engineering effect was significantly greater in the mixed assemblage as compared to the bacterial (x 1.2) and axenic diatom (x 1.7) cultures. The possibility of synergistic effects between the bacterial and algal cultures in terms of stability was examined and rejected although the concentration of EPS did show a synergistic elevation in mixed culture. The rapid development and overall stabilisation potential of the various assemblages was impressive (x 7.5 and ×9.5, for MagPI and CSM, respectively, as compared to controls). We confirmed the important role of heterotrophic bacteria in biostabilisation and highlighted the interactions between autotrophic and heterotrophic biofilm consortia. This information contributes to the conceptual understanding of the microbial sediment engineering that represents an important ecosystem function and service in aquatic habitats.