Development of the Bacterial Compartment Along the Danube River: A Continuum Despite Local Influences

Branko Velimirov, Nemanja Milosevic, Gerhard G. Kavka, Andreas H. Farnleitner, Alexander K.T. Kirschner

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Microbial food webs dominate heterotrophic food webs in large rivers with bacterial metabolism being a key component of carbon processing. Thus, analysis of bacterial population dynamics is critical to understanding patterns and mechanisms of material cycling and energy fluxes in large rivers. Within the frame of the Joint Danube Survey (JDS) 2007, the longitudinal development of the natural bacterial community in the Danube in terms of bacterial numbers, morphotype composition, and heterotrophic production of the suspended and particle-attached fractions was followed at a fine spatial resolution of approximately 30 km for the first time in such a large river along a 2,600-km stretch. Twenty-one major tributaries and branches were also included. This allowed us to investigate whether bacterial standing stock and production undergo continuous, linear changes or whether discontinuities and local processes like the merging of tributaries or the potential impact of sewage input drive the bacterial population in the Danube. The presented investigation revealed surprising continuous patterns of changes of bacterial parameters along the Danube River. Despite the presence of impoundments or hydropower plants, large municipalities, and the discharge of large tributaries, most bacterial parameters (standing stock, morphotype succession, and attached bacterial production) developed gradually, indicating that mainly broad-scale drivers and not local conditions shape and control the bacterial community in the midstream of this large river. As most important broad-scale drivers, nutrients (inorganic and organic) and changes in particle concentrations were identified. These data are also in remarkable accordance with the patterns of changes of the genetic bacterial community composition, observed during the first JDS (2001) 6 years before. In contrast, bacterial activity did not follow a continuous trend and was mainly controlled by the input of sewage from large cities in the middle section, leading to a bloom of phytoplankton. The observed patterns and the comparison between the Danube, its tributaries and other large rivers worldwide indicate that the bacterial community in rivers has a powerful indicator function for estimating the ecological status of large river ecosystems once enough information has been collected at various temporal and spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-967
Number of pages13
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Volume61
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science

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