For lake microbes, water column mixing acts as a disturbance because it homogenizes thermal and chemical gradients known to define the distributions of microbial taxa. Our first objective was to isolate hypothesized drivers of lake bacterial response to water column mixing. To accomplish this, we designed an enclosure experiment with three treatments to independently test key biogeochemical changes induced by mixing: oxygen addition to the hypolimnion, nutrient addition to the epilimnion, and full water column mixing. We used molecular fingerprinting to observe bacterial community dynamics in the treatment and control enclosures, and in ambient lake water. We found that oxygen and nutrient amendments simulated the physical-chemical water column environment following mixing and resulted in similar bacterial communities to the mixing treatment, affirming that these were important drivers of community change. These results demonstrate that specific environmental changes can replicate broad disturbance effects on microbial communities. Our second objective was to characterize bacterial community stability by quantifying community resistance, recovery and resilience to an episodic disturbance. The communities in the nutrient and oxygen amendments changed quickly (had low resistance), but generally matched the control composition by the 10th day after treatment, exhibiting resilience. These results imply that aquatic bacterial assemblages are generally stable in the face of disturbance.
© 2011 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.