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Biofilm resilience to desiccation in groundwater aquifers: A laboratory and field study

Abstract

Groundwater is used as a precious resource for drinking water worldwide. Increasing anthropogenic activity is putting increasing pressure on groundwater resources. One impact of increased groundwater abstraction coupled with increasing dry weather events is the lowering of groundwater levels within aquifers. Biofilms within groundwater aquifers offer protection to the groundwater by removing contaminants entering the aquifer systems from land use activities. The study presented investigated the impact of desiccation events on the biofilms present in groundwater aquifers using field and laboratory experiments. In both field and laboratory experiments a reduction in enzyme activity (glucosidase, esterase and phosphatase) was seen during desiccation compared to wet controls. However, comparing all the data together no significant differences were seen between either wet or desiccated samples or between the start and end of the experiments. In both field and laboratory experiments enzyme activity recovered to start levels after return to wet conditions. The study shows that biofilms within groundwater systems are resilient and can withstand periods of desiccation (4 months).

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