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Relationship between land use practices and fecal bacteria in soils


, : Relationship between land use practices and fecal bacteria in soils. Journal of Environmental Quality 11(1): 141-146

Fecal and other bacteria populations in soils from pasture, corn field and forest sites were assessed at the Rhode River watershed (Maryland, USA). Total coliform (TC), fecal coliform (FC), total streptococci (TS), fecal streptococci (FS) and aerobic heterotrophic bacteria (TVC) numbers were determined seasonally. They were also determined with depth to 25 cm in soils from the pasture. Bacterial numbers per gram of pasture soil from the surface 1 cm were: 252-1603 TC, 10-396 FC, 317-2270 TS, 163-1330 FS and 1.6-65.1 .times. 106 TVC. The numbers declined markedly with depth, except that TS and TVC numbers remained near the surface values. FC numbers varied seasonally, 22-396 most- probable-number (MPN)/g soil in fall and spring when cattle were grazing, and 10- 50 MPN/g soil in winter and summer when cattle were absent from the pasture. The corn field and forest surface soils contained equally low FC numbers (3-27 MPN/g soil). TVC were similar in magnitude at all 3 land-use sites. No readily discernable seasonal pattern was noted. The proportion of coliform bacteria differed with land use. In pasture soils 67% of isolates were confirmed as Escherichia coli, 22% were Enterobacter aerogenes and 11% belonged to other species. In corn field soils only 8% were E. coli, 77% E. aerogenes and 15% other species. In forest soils only E. coli were the dominant species. Thus, the proportion of E. coli was directly related to the degree of fecal pollution of the soils and the proportion of E. aerogenes increased with remoteness of the sild and the proportion of E. aerogenes increased with remoteness of the soil from potential polluting agents.

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