A study of the distribution of heterotrophic bacteria in the Great Lakes. I. The heterotrophs in Lake Water

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Bennett, Elizabeth A.

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Ontario Ministry of the Environment


The study of heterotrophic bacteria in fresh water lakes has been traditionally associated with those bacteria of intestinal origin. As indicators of domestic wastes, the intestinal group (coliforms and fecal streptococci) have proved invaluable. With increasing use of fresh water as industrialization and agriculture expand, the problem of water pollution becomes, aside from the public health aspects, one of eutrophication of the environment and its associated nuisances. The effect of this nutrient enrichment on the native bacterial flora of lakes has received little attention; conversely the effect of the resident bacterial population on nutrients has received little more than tacit recognition of the chemical conversions the various groups of bacteria effect. One of the primary reasons has been lack of knowledge on the composition of the bacterial plankton, bacterial periphyton, and benthic bacteria and their specific biochemical roles. This study was undertaken to obtain information on the types of heterotrophic bacteria in various areas of the Great Lakes and to relate the distribution of these types to 2 different levels of pollution. Along with knowledge of the nutrition and physiology of these organisms, some of the bacterial types could hopefully be used as indicators of the biochemical condition of the environment.


Ontario Ministry of the Environment
Biological Surveys/Investigations Reports


water quality, heterotrophic bacteria, species distribution, pollution, biological indicators