Flow cytometric assessments of metabolic activity in bacterial assemblages provide insight into ecosystem condition along the Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

Academic Article


  • The Buffalo National River (BNR), on karst terrain in Arkansas, is considered an extraordinary water resource. Water collected in Spring 2017 along BNR was metagenomically analyzed using 16S rDNA, and for 17 months (5/2017-11/2018), bacterial responses were measured in relation to nutrients sampled along a stretch of BNR near a concentrated animal feed operation (CAFO) on Big Creek. Because cell count and esterase activity can increase proportionally with organic enrichment, they were hypothesized to be elevated near the CAFO. Counts (colony forming units; CFUs) were different among sites for 73 % of the months; Big Creek generated highest CFUs 27 % of the time, with the closest downstream site at 13.3 %. Esterase activity was different among sites 94 % of the time, with Big Creek exhibiting lowest activity 71 % of the time. Over the months, activity was similar across sites at ~70 % active, except at Big Creek (56 %). The α-diversity of BNR microbial consortia near a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and the CAFO was related to distance from the WWTP and CAFO. The inverse relationship between high CFUs and low esterase activity at Big Creek (r = -0.71) actuated in vitro exposures of bacteria to organic wastewater contaminants (OWC) previously identified in the watershed. Exponential-phase Escherichia coli (stock strain), Streptococcus suis (avirulent, from swine), and S. dysgalactiae (virulent, from silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) were incubated with atrazine, pharmaceuticals (17 α-ethynylestradiol and trenbolone), and antimicrobials (tylosin and butylparaben). Bacteria were differentially responsive. Activity varied with exposure time and OWC type, but not concentration; atrazine decreased it most. Taken together - the metagenomic taxonomic similarities along BNR, slightly higher bacterial growth and lower bacterial esterase at the CAFO, and the lab exposures of bacterial strains showing that OWC altered metabolism - the results indicated that bioactive OWC entering the watershed can strongly influence microbial processes in the aquatic ecosystem.
  • Authors

  • Jenkins, Jill A
  • Draugelis-Dale, Rassa O
  • Hoffpauir, Nina M
  • Baudoin, Brooke A
  • Matkin, Caroline
  • Driver, Lucas
  • Hodges, Shawn
  • Brown, Bonnie
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • April 15, 2024
  • Published In


  • Animals
  • Arkansas
  • Atrazine
  • Bacteria
  • Concentrated animal feeding operation
  • Ecosystem
  • Esterases
  • Flow cytometry
  • Metabolism
  • Metagenomics
  • Organic wastewater compounds
  • Swine
  • Wastewater
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 38311076
  • Start Page

  • 170462
  • Volume

  • 921