Composition dynamics of epilithic intertidal bacterial communities exposed to high copper levels

Rodrigo de la Iglesia, Daniel Valenzuela-Heredia, Santiago Andrade, Juan Correa, Bernardo González

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8 Scopus citations


Copper has a dual role for organisms, both as micronutrient and toxic element. Copper mining activities have an enormous ecological impact because of the extraction process and the consequent release of copper-containing waste materials to the environment. In northern Chile, mainly in the Chañaral coastal area, this phenomenon is clearly evident. The released waste material has caused a strong modification of the area, and copper enrichment of beaches and rocky shores has provoked a decrease in the richness and diversity of many species of macroorganisms. However, the effects that copper enrichment has on microbial (e.g. bacterial epilithic) communities associated with the rocky shore environment are poorly understood. Using a culture-independent molecular approach, field sampling and laboratory microcosm experiments, we determined the effects of copper enrichment on bacterial communities inhabiting the rocky shore environment. Field samples showed a strong effect of copper on the structure of the natural bacterial epilithic communities, and microcosm experiments demonstrated rapid changes in bacterial community when copper is added, and reversibility of this effect within 48 h after copper is removed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-727
Number of pages8
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Copper
  • Epilithic bacteria
  • Intertidal rocky shore
  • T-RFLP
  • copA


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