Fecal pathogen contamination of watersheds worldwide is increasingly recognized, and natural wetlands may have an important role in mitigating fecal pathogen pollution flowing downstream. Given that waterborne protozoa, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia, are transported within surface waters, this study evaluated associations between fecal protozoa and various wetland-specific and environmental risk factors. This study focused on three distinct coastal California wetlands: (i) a tidally influenced slough bordered by urban and agricultural areas, (ii) a seasonal wetland adjacent to a dairy, and (iii) a constructed wetland that receives agricultural runoff. Wetland type, seasonality, rainfall, and various water quality parameters were evaluated using lon- gitudinal Poisson regression to model effects on concentrations of protozoa and indicator bacteria (Escherichia coli and total coliform). Among wetland types, the dairy wetland exhibited the highest protozoal and bacterial concentrations, and despite significant reductions in microbe concentrations, the wetland could still be seen to influence water quality in the downstream tidal wetland. Additionally, recent rainfall events were associated with higher protozoal and bacterial counts in wetland water samples across all wetland types. Notably, detection of E. coli concentrations greater than a 400 most probable number (MPN) per 100 ml was associated with higher Cryptosporidium oocyst and Giardia cyst concentrations. These findings show that natural wetlands draining agricultural and livestock operation runoff into human-utilized waterways should be considered potential sources of pathogens and that wetlands can be instrumental in reducing pathogen loads to downstream waters.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Food Science