Image_1_Bacterial Community 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing Characterizes Riverine Microbial Impact on Lake Michigan.jpg
Restoration of degraded aquatic habitats is critical to preserve and maintain ecosystem processes and economic viability. Effective restoration requires contaminant sources identification. Microbial communities are increasingly used to characterize fecal contamination sources. The objective was to determine whether nearshore and adjacent beach bacterial contamination originated from the Grand Calumet River, a highly urbanized aquatic ecosystem, and to determine if there were correlations between pathogens/feces associated bacteria in any of the samples to counts of the pathogen indicator species Escherichia coli. Water samples were collected from the river, river mouth, nearshore, and offshore sites along southern Lake Michigan. Comparisons among communities were made using beta diversity distances (weighted and unweighted Unifrac, and Bray Curtis) and Principal Coordinate Analysis of 16S rRNA gene Illumina sequence data that indicated river bacterial communities differed significantly from the river mouth, nearshore lake, and offshore lake samples. These differences were further supported using Source Tracker software that indicated nearshore lake communities differed significantly from river and offshore samples. Among locations, there was separation by sampling date that was associated with environmental factors (e.g., water and air temperature, water turbidity). Although about half the genera (48.1%) were common to all sampling sites, linear discriminant analysis effect size indicated there were several taxa that differed significantly among sites; there were significant positive correlations of feces-associated genera with E. coli most probable numbers. Results collectively highlight that understanding microbial communities, rather than relying solely on select fecal indicators with uncertain origin, are more useful for developing strategies to restore degraded aquatic habitats.