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Effects of Grazing by Flagellates on Competition for Ammonium between Nitrifying and Heterotrophic Bacteria in Chemostats

By Frank J. M. Verhagen and Hendrikus J. Laanbroek

Abstract

The enhanced mineralization of organic nitrogen by bacteriophagous protozoa is thought to favor the nitrification process in soils, in which nitrifying bacteria have to compete with heterotrophic bacteria for the available ammonium. To obtain more insight into this process, the influence of grazing by the bacteriovorous flagellate Adriamonas peritocrescens on the competition for limiting amounts of ammonium between the ammonium-oxidizing species Nitrosomonas europaea and the heterotrophic species Arthrobacter globiformis was studied in the presence of Nitrobacter winogradskyi in continuous cultures at dilution rates of 0.004 and 0.01 h(-1). The ammonium concentration in the reservoir was maintained at 2 mM, whereas the glucose concentration was increased stepwise from 0 to 7 mM. A. globiformis won the competition for limiting amounts of ammonium when the glucose concentration in the reservoirs increased, in agreement with previously described experiments in which the flagellates were not included. The numbers of nitrifying bacteria decreased as the numbers of heterotrophic bacteria rose with increasing glucose concentrations. Critical C/N ratios, i.e., ratios between glucose and ammonium in the reservoirs at which no nitrate was found in the culture vessels, of 12.5 and 10.5 were determined at dilution rates of 0.004 and 0.01 h(-1), respectively. Below these critical values, coexistence of the competing species was found. The numbers of nitrifying bacteria decreased more in the presence of flagellates than in their absence, presumably by selective predation on the nitrifying bacteria, either in the liquid culture or on the glass wall of the culture vessels. Despite this, the rate of nitrate production did not decrease more in the presence of flagellates than in their absence. This demonstrates that no correlation has to be expected between numbers of nitrifying bacteria and their activity and that a constant nitrification rate per cell cannot be assumed for nitrifying bacteria. Above the critical C/N ratios, low numbers of nitrifying bacteria were still found in the culture vessels, probably because of attachment of the nitrifying bacteria to the glass wall of the culture vessels. Like the numbers of heterotrophic bacteria, the numbers of flagellates increased when the glucose concentrations in the reservoirs increased. Numbers of 2 × 10(5) and 12 × 10(5) flagellates ml(-1) were found at 7 mM glucose at dilution rates of 0.004 and 0.01 h(-1), respectively. It was concluded that the critical C/N ratios were practically unaffected by the presence of protozoa. Although nitrate production rates were equal in the presence and absence of flagellates, the numbers of nitrifying bacteria decreased more strongly in their presence. This indicates a higher activity per nitrifying cell in the presence of flagellates

Topics: General Microbial Ecology
Year: 1992
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:195710
Provided by: PubMed Central
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