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Water Research
Volume 189, 2020, 116631

Aquifer recharge viewed through the lens of microbial community ecology: Initial disturbance response, and impacts of species sorting versus mass effects on microbial community assembly in groundwater during riverbank filtration

Lucas Fillinger1, Katrin Hug, Christian Griebler1

Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Groundwater Ecology, Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany.


Riverbank filtration has gained increasing importance for balancing rising groundwater demands and securing drinking water supplies. While microbial communities are the pillar of vital ecosystem functions in groundwater, the impact of riverbank filtration on these communities has been understudied so far. Here, we followed changes in microbial community composition based on 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) in an initially pristine shallow porous aquifer in response to surface water intrusion during the early stages of induced riverbank filtration over a course of seven weeks. We further analyzed sediment cores for imprints of river-derived ASVs after seven weeks of riverbank filtration. The onset of the surface water intrusion caused loss of taxa and significant changes in community composition, revealing low disturbance resistance of the initial aquifer microbial communities. SourceTracker analysis revealed that proportions of river-derived ASVs in the groundwater were generally <25%, but locally could reach up to 62% during a period of intense precipitation. However, variation partitioning showed that the impact of dispersal of river-derived ASVs on changes in aquifer microbial community composition was overall outweighed by species sorting due to changes in environmental conditions caused by the infiltrating river water. Proportions of river-derived ASVs on aquifer sediments were <0.5%, showing that taxa transported from the river into the aquifer over the course of the study mainly resided as planktonic microorganisms in the groundwater. Our study demonstrates that groundwater microbial communities react sensitively to changes in environmental conditions caused by surface water intrusion, whereas mass effects resulting from the influx of river-derived taxa play a comparatively minor role.

Keywords: Microbial community coalescence, ,Dispersal, Selection, Perturbation, Microbial community resistance, Aquifer sediment.

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