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Phosphorus and carbohydrate limtation [i.e. limitation] of fecal coliform and fecal enterococcus within tidal creek sediments

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Byron R. Toothman (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
Lawrence Cahoon

Abstract: Aquatic sediments have been shown to be a significant reservoir for fecal bacteria and at concentations two to three orders of magnitude higher than the waters directly above them. These bacteria represent a potentially serious health threat to humans using these waters. This study was conducted to determine the abundance of fecal bacteria within tidal creek sediments of Bradley Creek and determine if their residence or growth may be limited by concentrations of sediment phosphorus (P), sediment carbon (C), salinity, and water temperature. Sediment fecal coliforms had a mean of 179 CFU/cm2 (std. dev. = 411, range = 0-3230) for samples collected monthly at 6 stations over the course of this study. Were the bacteria and sediments to be suspended through a 100 cm water column this value would be the equivalent of 179 CFU/100ml which is just below the water quality standard for human contact (200 CFU/100ml). Such disturbances could easily be produced by natural or human activities. Samples for enterococcus had a mean of 285 CFU/cm2 (std. dev. = 473, range = 0-1730). If these sediments and bacteria were similarly suspended they would equate to 285 CFU/100ml and greatly exceede the standard for human contact in the water column (33 CFU/100ml). Overall, only fecal coliform bacteria were correlated to sediment C, however, the signal from bioavailable C was probably masked by the presence of insoluble C from detrital cellulose. Neither bacteria were correlated to sediment P concentrations which were found to be greater in Bradley Creek sediments than limiting concentrations for coliforms in sediments concluded by previous research. Sediments were a significant reservoir of P as concentrations were recorded as high as 4-5 orders of magnitude greater than in overlying waters. Sediment fecal coliforms were shown to be negatively correlated with salinity and positively correlated with temperature conforming to patterns established by previous research. However, fecal enterococcus was not shown to have a significant relationship with either salinity or temperature. Fecal coliforms were positively correlated to precipitation over the previous 24 hours. Experimental addition of bioavailable P (potassium phosphate monobasic) and bioavailable C (dextrose) showed a positive relationship between both fecal bacteria and bioavailable C. Enterococcus was significantly correlated to P in trials with low initial sediment P concentrations. Fecal coliform was significantly correlated to P at a = 0.1 where initial P concentrations were low. A higher a was taken into consideration due to the high variability of coliform data and relatively low degrees of freedom for individual experimental trials. It was concluded that while P and C are important to fecal bacterial residence within sediments, P may no longer be limiting in Bradley Creek due to relatively high background concentrations. Elevated P and bioavailable C concentrations have been correlated to storm water runoff. Limitation of sediment fecal bacteria in Bradley Creek by these nutrients may be alleviated from their introduction via this mechanism.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Science
Language: English
Date: 2009
Bacterial pollution of water--North Carolina--Bradley Creek, Enterococcus--Environmental aspects--North Carolina--Bradley Creek, Marine sediments--Microbiology--North Carolina--Bradley Creek, Water quality--North Carolina--Bradley Creek
Bacterial pollution of water -- North Carolina -- Bradley Creek
Water quality -- North Carolina -- Bradley Creek
Marine sediments -- Microbiology -- North Carolina -- Bradley Creek
Enterococcus -- Environmental aspects -- North Carolina -- Bradley Creek