Variability in bacteria and virus-like particle abundances during purging of unconfined aquifers

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Groundwater, 2014, 52 (1), pp. 118 - 124
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Standard methodologies for sampling the physicochemical conditions of groundwater recommend purging a bore for three bore volumes to avoid sampling the stagnant water within a bore and instead gain samples representative of the aquifer. However, there are currently no methodological standards addressing the amount of purging required to gain representative biological samples to assess groundwater bacterial and viral abundances. The objective of this study was to examine how bacterial and viral abundances change during the purging of bore volumes. Six bores infiltrating into unconfined aquifers were pumped for five or six bore volumes each and bacteria and virus-like particles (VLPs) were enumerated from each bore volume using flow cytometry. In examination of the individual bores trends in bacterial abundances were observed to increase, decrease, or remain constant with each purged bore volume. Furthermore, triplicates taken at each bore volume indicated substantial variations in VLP and bacterial abundances that are often larger than the differences between bore volumes. This indicates a high level of small scale heterogeneity in microbial community abundance in groundwater samples, and we suggest that this may be an intrinsic feature of bore biology. The heterogeneity observed may be driven by bottom up processes (variability in the distribution of organic and inorganic nutrients), top-down processes (grazing and viral lysis), physical heterogeneities in the bore, or technical artifacts associated with the purging process. We suggest that a more detailed understanding of the ecology underpinning this variability is required to adequately describe the microbiological characteristics of groundwater ecosystems. © 2013, National Ground Water Association.
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