Science Serving Maryland's Coasts
Alyson Santoro, Ph.D., Judy O'Neil, Ph.D.
Chesapeake Biological Laboratory
Microbial Activity and Abundance Along Land Use Gradients in Chesapeake Bay Watersheds
The importance of microbes to daily human life is becoming ever more apparent as new discoveries are made about the processes which govern how nutrients are cycled on Earth and how humans have and continue to alter those processes. One such set of processes, the nitrogen cycle, is particularly related to the metabolic functions of microbes. Stream and riparian systems have been found to harbor a variety of microbial species which provide a number of ecosystem services, many of which are intimately connected to nitrogen cycling. In this study, some of the metabolic processes of stream microbes were tracked and assessed along physical and chemical environmental gradients, which were ultimately compared to an assessment of human land usage. The results of this study show intimate connections between the ways in which land is used and the activity of microbes in nearby streams via a chain of interactions between changes and differences in the physical structure of microbial micro-environments and shifts in chemical concentrations. Future study could further aid in understanding how these micro-communities interact on a large scale such that management and educational practices can be devised.
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