We investigated whether the prey-predator dynamics of bacteria and protozoa were affected by inorganic mercury at concentrations of 0, 3.5 and 15 mg Hg(II) kg soil(-1). The amount of bioavailable Hg was estimated using a biosensor-assay based on the mer-lux gene fusion. The numbers of bacterial CFUs on the general medium 1/100 tryptic soy agar (TSA) were significantly decreased when the soil had been amended with Hg. In contrast, no effect was seen on the number of CFUs on the Pseudomonas-specific medium Gould's S1 agar. Protozoan numbers estimated by the most probable number (MPN) method with 1/100 TSB as growth medium were also negatively affected by Hg. The different fractions of protozoa were affected to different degrees suggesting that amoebae were less sensitive than slow-growing flagellates, which again were less sensitive than the fast-growing flagellates. In contrast, Hg did not induce any detectable changes in the diversity of flagellate morphotypes. In the treatment with 15 mg Hg kg(-1) a transiently increased number of bacteria was seen at day 6 probably concomitant with a decrease in the numbers of protozoa. This might indicate that Hg affected the prey-predator dynamics in communities of culturable bacteria and protozoa in soil. Furthermore, we showed that the number of Pseudomonas spp. was not affected by Hg whereas the number of bacteria growing on a general medium was.
- bioavailable mercury
- prey-predator dynamics