The coastal ecosystems of California are highly utilized by humans and animals, but the ecology of fecal bacteria at the land-sea interface is not well understood. This study evaluated the distribution of potentially pathogenic bacteria in invertebrates from linked marine, estuarine, and freshwater ecosystems in central California. A variety of filter-feeding clams, mussels, worms, and crab tissues were selectively cultured for Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Escherichia coli-O157, Clostridium perfringens, Plesiomonas shigelloides, and Vibrio spp. A longitudinal study assessed environmental risk factors for detecting these bacterial species in sentinel mussel batches. Putative risk factors included mussel collection near higher risk areas for livestock or human sewage exposure, adjacent human population density, season, recent precipitation, water temperature, water type, bivalve type, and freshwater outflow exposure. Bacteria detected in invertebrates included Salmonella spp., C. perfringens, P. shigelloides, Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and Vibrio alginolyticus. Overall, 80% of mussel batches were culture positive for at least one of the bacterial species, although the pathogens Campylobacter, E. coli-O157, and Salmonella were not detected. Many of the same bacterial species were also cultured from upstream estuarine and riverine invertebrates. Exposure to human sewage sources, recent precipitation, and water temperature were significant risk factors for bacterial detection in sentinel mussel batches. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that filter-feeding invertebrates along the coast concentrate fecal bacteria flowing from land to sea and show that the relationships between anthropogenic effects on coastal ecosystems and the environmental niches of fecal bacteria are complex and dynamic.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology