Urbanization promotes specific bacteria in freshwater microbiomes including potential pathogens


  • D. Numberger
  • L. Zoccarato
  • J. Woodhouse
  • L. Ganzert
  • S. Sauer
  • J.R. García Márquez
  • S. Domisch
  • H.P. Grossart
  • A.D. Greenwood


  • Science of the Total Environment


  • Sci Total Environ 845: 157321


  • Freshwater ecosystems are characterized by complex and highly dynamic microbial communities that are strongly structured by their local environment and biota. Accelerating urbanization and growing city populations detrimentally alter freshwater environments. To determine differences in freshwater microbial communities associated with urbanization, full-length 16S rRNA gene PacBio sequencing was performed in a case study from surface waters and sediments from a wastewater treatment plant, urban and rural lakes in the Berlin-Brandenburg region, Northeast Germany. Water samples exhibited highly habitat specific bacterial communities with multiple genera showing clear urban signatures. We identified potentially harmful bacterial groups associated with environmental parameters specific to urban habitats such as Alistipes, Escherichia/Shigella, Rickettsia and Streptococcus. We demonstrate that urbanization alters natural microbial communities in lakes and, via simultaneous warming and eutrophication and creates favourable conditions that promote specific bacterial genera including potential pathogens. Our findings are evidence to suggest an increased potential for long-term health risk in urbanized waterbodies, at a time of rapidly expanding global urbanization. The results highlight the urgency for undertaking mitigation measures such as targeted lake restoration projects and sustainable water management efforts.