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A comparison of bacteria and benthic invertebrates as indicators of ecological health in streams
- LEAR, G., BOOTHROYD, I.K.G., TURNER, S.J., ROBERTS, K., LEWIS, G.D.
- Freshwater biology 2009 v.54 no.7 pp. 1532-1543
- DNA fingerprinting, anthropogenic activities, bacteria, bacterial communities, biofilm, community structure, environmental health, freshwater, humans, macroinvertebrates, multivariate analysis, polymerase chain reaction, streams, temporal variation
- 1. We set out to evaluate the reliability of bacterial communities as an indicator of freshwater ecological health. 2. Samples of epilithic biofilm were taken over a 1-year period from four streams, each impacted by varying degrees of human modification. The bacteria within each sample were characterised using a whole community DNA fingerprinting technique (automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis). Spatial and temporal differences in community structure between samples were visualised using multi-dimensional scaling and quantified using permutational multivariate anova. Macrobenthic invertebrates, which are commonly used as indicators of stream ecological health, were also sampled for comparison. 3. Multivariate analysis revealed a clear gradient in macroinvertebrate community structure between sites exposed to increased human impact. Bacterial communities, however, could only distinguish the most impacted site from the remainder. 4. Additional research is required to increase the sensitivity of bacterial community analyses before endorsing their use as an indicator of freshwater ecological health.