The role of microbial community composition and groundwater chemistry in determining isoproturon degradation potential in UK aquifers

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Abstract

The community response of indigenous sandstone, chalk and limestone groundwater microorganisms to the addition of the commonly used herbicide isoproturon was examined. The addition of 100 μg l−1 isoproturon generally caused an increase in species diversity determined by chemotaxonomic analysis (fatty methyl ester analysis) of isolates resulting from incubation of cultures at 18 °C for 4 days. Amongst the groundwater samples to which isoproturon was added, isoproturon degradation rates were correlated with increasing dominance of a few species. However, the changes in community profile associated with isoproturon degradation varied from site to site. Repeated sub-culturing with 100 μg l−1 isoproturon and sterile groundwater was carried out to examine whether this level of pesticide could exert a selection pressure, and hence stimulate more rapid degradation. Significantly increased degradation was observed in a groundwater sample from the chalk, but not in sandstone, or limestone samples. The addition of filter-sterilised sandstone groundwater to bacteria on filter paper from slow degrading limestone sites significantly improved their degrading performance. The addition of filter-sterilised limestone groundwater to the sandstone bacteria reduced their degradation rate only slightly. The data suggested that the nature of the indigenous community does influence pesticide degradation in groundwater, but that the groundwater chemistry may also play a role.

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