Multifunctionality and Diversity in Bacterial Biofilms

Bacteria are highly diverse and drive a bulk of ecosystem processes. Analysis of relationships between diversity and single specific ecosystem processes neglects the possibility that different species perform multiple functions at the same time. The degradation of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) followed by respiration is a key bacterial function that is modulated by the availability of DOC and the capability to produce extracellular enzymes. In freshwater ecosystems, biofilms are metabolic hotspots and major sites of DOC degradation. We manipulated the diversity of biofilm forming communities which were fed with DOC differing in availability. We characterized community composition using molecular fingerprinting (T-RFLP) and measured functioning as oxygen consumption rates, the conversion of DOC in the medium, bacterial abundance and the activities of five specific enzymes. Based on assays of the extracellular enzyme activity, we calculated how the likelihood of sustaining multiple functions was affected by reduced diversity. Carbon source and biofilm age were strong drivers of community functioning, and we demonstrate how the likelihood of sustaining multifunctionality decreases with decreasing diversity ​
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