Characterization of benthic biofilms in mangrove sediments and their variation in response to nutrients and contaminants

Lihua Yang, Qian Yang, Li Lin, Tiangang Luan, Nora F.Y. Tam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Diatom-dominated biofilms and associated extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) may adapt to the stress of long-term exposure to nutrients and anthropogenic contaminants. However, such interactions in contaminated mangrove sediments have rarely been reported. Based on the in situ characterization of biofilm components and environmental factors, the present study aimed to explore the key factors involved in shaping sediment biofilms through correlational and multivariate analyses. The pennate diatom Navicula is the core taxon that plays a crucial role in balancing the abundance of Nitzschia and Cyclotella, and is the main producer of bound-polysaccharides. The taxa composition shifts in a high N/P matrix, with the populations of pennate diatoms increasing but that of centric diatoms decreasing. High nutrient concentrations yield more number of diatoms and elevated levels of EPS. Bacteria are the main consumers of EPS and tend to be more symbiotic with Nitzschia than the other two diatom taxa. Some bound-polysaccharides dominated by arabinose and glucose units are transformed into the colloidal fraction, whereas other conservative ones serve as structural materials in concert with the bound-proteins. The planktonic phase of Cyclotella breaks down the structural EPS secreted by pennate diatoms in a process that directly affects the dynamic renewal of benthic biofilms. Most heavy metals as well as bisphenol A inhibit the abundance of bacteria and diatoms but enhance most EPS fractions except bound-polysaccharides. The response of structural EPS to specific contaminants varies, exhibiting increases in Co and Ni levels but decreases in nonylphenol and methylparaben levels. The present study improves our understanding of the microbial carbon loop of benthic biofilms in mangrove ecosystems under stress by nutrients and mixed contaminants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number159391
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2023


  • Diatoms
  • Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS)
  • Heavy metals
  • Nutrients
  • Phenolic compounds


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