This study investigates the effect of mercury contamination on the culturable heterotrophic, functional and genetic diversity of the bacterial community in soil. The changes in diversity were monitored in soil microcosms, enriched with 25 mug Hg(II) g(-1) soil, over a period of 3 months. The culturable heterotrophic diversity was investigated by colony morphology and colony appearance on solid LB medium. Functional diversity was analysed as sole carbon utilisation patterns in ECOplates. Genetic diversity was measured as bands on denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGCE) gels obtained by purification of total soil DNA and amplification of bacterial 16S rDNA fragments by polymerase chain reaction. Concentrations of bioavailable and total mercury were measured throughout the experiment. The effect on the culturable heterotrophic and genetic diversity was very similar, showing an immediate decrease after mercury addition but then slowly increasing throughout the entire experimental period. Pre-exposure levels were not reached within the time span of this investigation. The DGGE band pattern indicated that a shift in the community structure was responsible for recovered diversity. When analysed by Shannon-Weaver indices, functional diversity was found to increase almost immediately after mercury addition and to remain at a level higher than the control soil for the rest of the experiment. The fraction of culturable heterotrophic bacteria increased from 1% to 10% of the total bacterial number as a result of mercury addition, and the mercury-resistant population increased to represent the entire heterotrophic population. (C) 2001 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier Science B.V.. All rights reserved.
- soil microcosm
- microbial community
- denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis
- colony morphology