We investigated the effects of copper on the structure and physiology of freshwater biofilm microbial communities. For this purpose, biofilms that were grown during 4 weeks in a shallow, slightly polluted ditch were exposed, in aquaria in our laboratory, to a range of copper concentrations (0, 1, 3, and 10 µM). Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) revealed changes in the bacterial community in all aquaria. The extent of change was related to the concentration of copper applied, indicating that copper directly or indirectly caused the effects. Concomitantly with these changes in structure, changes in the metabolic potential of the heterotrophic bacterial community were apparent from changes in substrate use profiles as assessed on Biolog plates. The structure of the phototrophic community also changed during the experiment, as observed by microscopic analysis in combination with DGGE analysis of eukaryotic microorganisms and cyanobacteria. However, the extent of community change, as observed by DGGE, was not significantly greater in the copper treatments than in the control. Yet microscopic analysis showed a development toward a greater proportion of cyanobacteria in the treatments with the highest copper concentrations. Furthermore, copper did affect the physiology of the phototrophic community, as evidenced by the fact that a decrease in photosynthetic capacity was detected in the treatment with the highest copper concentration. Therefore, we conclude that copper affected the physiology of the biofilm and had an effect on the structure of the communities composing this biofilm.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Journal publication date2004

ID: 388419