Effects of geographic location and water quality on bacterial communities in full-scale biofilters across North America

Ben Ma, Timothy M. Lapara, Ashley N. Evans, Raymond M. Hozalski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Spatial patterns of bacterial community composition often follow a distance-decay relationship in which community dissimilarity increases with geographic distance. Such a relationship has been commonly observed in natural environments, but less so in engineered environments. In this study, bacterial abundance and community composition in filter media samples (n = 57) from full-scale rapid biofilters at 14 water treatment facilities across North America were determined using quantitative polymerase chain reaction and Illumina HiSeq high-throughput sequencing targeting the 16S rRNA gene, respectively. Bacteria were abundant on the filter media (108.8±0.3 to 1010.7±0.2 16S rRNA gene copies/cm3 bed volume) and the bacterial communities were highly diverse (Shannon index: 5.3 ± 0.1 to 8.4 ± 0.0). Significant inter-filter variations in bacterial community composition were observed, with weighted UniFrac dissimilarity values following a weak but highly significant distance-decay relationship (z = 0.0057 ± 0.0006; P = 1.8 × 10-22). Approximately 50% of the variance in bacterial community composition was explained by the water quality parameters measured at the time of media sample collection (i.e. pH, temperature and dissolved organic carbon concentration). Overall, this study suggested that the microbiomes of biofilters are primarily shaped by geographic location and local water quality conditions but the influence of these factors on the microbiomes is tempered by filter design and operating conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfiz210
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Water Research Foundation (WRF 4669).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 FEMS.


  • Illumina high-throughput sequencing
  • distance-decay relationship
  • microbial biogeography
  • multiple regression on matrix
  • water treatment biofilters

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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