Biofilms in Freshwater: Their Importance for the Maintenance and Monitoring of Freshwater Health
Gavin Lear, Andrew Dopheide, Pierre-Yves Ancion, Kelly Roberts, Vidya Washington, Jo Smith and Gillian D. Lewis
from: Microbial Biofilms: Current Research and Applications (Edited by: Gavin Lear and Gillian D. Lewis). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2012)
This chapter reviews our current understanding of the roles biofilm-associated microbial communities play in both maintaining and improving the ecological health of freshwater rivers and streams. Biofilms are where most of the bacteria present in freshwater systems are found, and have been identified as major sites for primary production, carbon and nutrient cycling. Advances in various scientific methodologies have recently been used to characterise the enormous diversity of biofilms, in terms of their structural, chemical and biological traits. The microbial life present within most natural biofilms, as well as associated exudates and lysates have been identified as a valuable, nutrient rich food source for a variety of benthic consumers. Furthermore, the diverse metabolic potential of these complex communities, in combination with various protective traits offered by the biofilm 'mode-of-life', provide biofilms with an excellent ability to degrade, or otherwise transform a vast array of freshwater pollutants. Despite this apparent resilience, we highlight the sensitivity of these poorly studied freshwater biofilm communities to various human activities, and consider their potential as a reliable and sensitive biological indicator of freshwater ecological health read more ...