Sulfite-reducing clostridia in the sediment of a high mountain lake (Laguna Grande, Gredos, Spain) as indicators of fecal pollution
Keywords:Clostridium endospores, sulfite-reducing clostridia, lake sediments, high-mountain lakes, fecal indicators
AbstractWe studied the vertical distribution of sulfite-reducing clostridia in the sediment of a Spanish high-mountain lagoon (Laguna Grande de Gredos, central Spain), with optimal sediment characteristics (temperature < 20°C) to maintain spores without growing. This allowed us to assess the original numbers of sulfite-reducing clostridia endospores settled, without postdepositional growing. Sulfite-reducing clostridia are normal inhabitants of the intestinal microbiota of humans and other mammals. These microorganisms may form endospores, which allow the bacteria to survive in almost any habitat, either terrestrial or aquatic, waiting for favorable conditions for growth. Sulfite-reducing clostridia could be suitable indicators of past human pollution because they have a great longevity in natural habitats and they cannot multiply at temperatures below 20°C or in the presence of O2. We found a great increase in the numbers of clostridia (expressed as colony-forming units per gram [CFU/g] of dry weight of sediment) since the 1970s, which reflects the rise of human pressure caused by the practice of outdoor activities.Clostridia CFU/g rose dramatically after the faulty operation of the depuration system of a mountain refuge built close to the lagoon. We compared the vertical distribution of clostridia CFU/g from Laguna Grande sediments with those from a neighbor lagoon (Laguna Cimera), which showed less tourist pressure and no direct disposal of sewage. Finally, we agree with the usefulness of the numbers of sulfitereducing clostridia as indicators of past pollution.
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