Differential Decay of Wastewater Bacteria and Change of Microbial Communities in Beach Sand and Seawater Microcosms

Qian Zhang, Xia He, Tao Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Laboratory microcosm experiments were conducted to determine the decay kinetics of wastewater bacteria and the change of microbial communities in beach sand and seawater. Cultivation-based methods showed that common fecal indicator bacteria (FIBs; Escherichia coli, enterococci, and Clostridium perfringens) exhibited biphasic decay patterns in all microcosms. Enterococci and C. perfringens, but not E. coli, showed significantly smaller decay rates in beach sand than in seawater. Cultivation-independent qPCR quantification of 16S rRNA gene also showed significantly slower decrease of total bacterial densities in beach sand than in seawater. Microbial community analysis by next-generation sequencing (NGS) further illustrated that the decreasing relative abundance of wastewater bacteria was contrasted by the increase in indigenous beach sand and seawater microbiota, and the overall microbial community dynamics corresponded well with the decay of individual FIB populations. In summary, the differential decay of wastewater bacteria in beach sand and in seawater provides a kinetic explanation to the often-observed higher abundance of FIBs in beach sand, and the NGS-based microbial community analysis can provide valuable insights to understanding the fate of wastewater bacteria in the context of indigenous microbial communities in natural environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8531-8540
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 21 2015


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