Rapid changes in microbial community structures along a meandering river




Cruaud, Perrine
Vigneron, Adrien
Dorea, Caetano C.
Rodriguez, Manuel J.
Charette, Steve J.

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Streams and rivers convey freshwater from lands to the oceans, transporting various organic particles, minerals, and living organisms. Microbial communities are key components of freshwater food webs and take up, utilize, and transform this material. However, there are still important gaps in our understanding of the dynamic of these organisms along the river channels. Using high-throughput 16S and 18S rRNA gene sequencing and quantitative PCR on a 11-km long transect of the Saint-Charles River (Quebec, CA), starting from its main source, the Saint-Charles Lake, we show that bacterial and protist community structures in the river drifted quickly but progressively downstream of its source. The dominant Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) of the lake, notably related to Cyanobacteria, decreased in proportions, whereas relative proportions of other OTUs, such as a Pseudarcicella OTU, increased along the river course, becoming quickly predominant in the river system. Both prokaryotic and protist communities changed along the river transect, suggesting a strong impact of the shift from a stratified lake ecosystem to a continuously mixed river environment. This might reflect the cumulative effects of the increasing water turbulence, fluctuations of physicochemical conditions, differential predation pressure in the river, especially in the lake outlet by benthic filter feeders, or the relocation of microorganisms, through flocculation, sedimentation, resuspension, or inoculation from the watershed. Our study reveals that the transit of water in a river system can greatly impact both bacterial and micro-eukaryotic community composition, even over a short distance, and, potentially, the transformation of materials in the water column.



freshwater, bacteria, protist, lotic, Cyanobacteria


Cruaud, P., Vigneron, A., Dorea, C. C., Rodriguez, M. J., & Charette, S. J. (2020). “Rapid changes in microbial community structures along a meandering river.” Microorganisms, 8(11), 1631. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms8111631