Nutrient loading impacts on culturable E.coli and other heterotrophic bacteria fate in simulated stream mesocosms.
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Understanding fecal indicator bacteria persistence in aquatic environments is important when making management decisions to improve instream water quality. Routinely, bacteria fate and transport models that rely on published kinetic decay constants are used to inform such decision making but may not adequately represent instream conditions. The objective of this work was to evaluate bacterial responses to applied nutrient amendments and provide additional information regarding bacterial response to applied changes that can be incorporated into future modeling efforts. Re-created stream mesocosms were established in laboratory-based, repurposed algae raceways filled with water and sediment from a small, 3rd order Southeast Texas stream. Mesocosm treatments consisted of low (10x) or high (50x) nutrient doses above ambient water concentrations operated at low (0.032m/s) or high (0.141m/s) flow rates. Escherichia coli and heterotrophic bacterial concentrations were quantified in water and sediment over 22 days. No significant differences in kinetic constants were observed among E.coli in water or sediment, and only E.coli in sediment showed any growth response. Heterotrophic plate counts revealed a pronounced growth response in water and sediment within 24h of nutrient addition but did not differ significantly from control mesocosms. Significant kinetic constant differences between E.coli and heterotrophic bacteria in water were identified (p<0.01) but did not differ significantly in sediment (p>0.48). Results indicate that nutrient addition does affect microbial numbers instream, but competition from heterotrophic bacteria may prevent an E.coli growth response.