Microbial Community Structure Across a Wastewater-Impacted Riparian Buffer Zone in the Southeastern Coastal Plain

T.F. Ducey*, P.R. Johnson, A.D. Shriner, T.A. Matheny, P.G. Hunt
Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plant Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Florence SC

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© Ducey et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to these authors at the 2611 West Lucas Street, Florence, SC, 29501; Tel: 843-669-5203;Fax: 843-669-6970; E-mail:


Riparian buffer zones are important for both natural and developed ecosystems throughout the world because of their ability to retain nutrients, prevent soil erosion, protect aquatic environments from excessive sedimentation, and filter pollutants. Despite their importance, the microbial community structures of riparian buffer zones remains poorly defined. Our objectives for this study were twofold: first, to characterize the microbial populations found in riparian buffer zone soils; and second, to determine if microbial community structure could be linked to denitrification enzyme activity (DEA). To achieve these objectives, we investigated the microbial populations of a riparian buffer zone located downslope of a pasture irrigated with swine lagoon effluent, utilizing DNA sequencing of the 16S rDNA, DEA, and quantitative PCR (qPCR) of the denitrification genes nirK, nirS, and nosZ. Clone libraries of the 16S rDNA gene were generated from each of twelve sites across the riparian buffer with a total of 986 partial sequences grouped into 654 operational taxonomic units (OTUs). The Proteobacteria were the dominant group (49.8% of all OTUs), with the Acidobacteria also well represented (19.57% of all OTUs). Analysis of qPCR results identified spatial relationships between soil series, site location, and gene abundance, which could be used to infer both incomplete and total DEA rates.

Keywords: : Riparian buffer, microbial communities, denitrification, 16S rRNA gene.