Resilience and recovery: The effect of triclosan exposure timing during development, on the structure and function of river biofilm communities

J. R. Lawrence*, E. Topp, M. J. Waiser, V. Tumber, J. Roy, G. D.W. Swerhone, P. Leavitt, A. Paule, D. R. Korber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Triclosan (TCS) is a ubiquitous antibacterial agent found in soaps, scrubs, and consumer products. There is limited information on hazardous effects of TCS in the environment. Here, rotating annular reactors were used to cultivate river biofilm communities exposed to 1.8μgl-1 TCS with the timing and duration of exposure and recovery during development varied. Two major treatment regimens were employed: (i) biofilm development for 2, 4 or 6 weeks prior to TCS exposure and (ii) exposure of biofilms to TCS for 2, 4 or 6 weeks followed by recovery. Biofilms not exposed to TCS were used as a reference condition. Communities cultivated without and then exposed to TCS all exhibited reductions in algal biomass and significant (p<0.05) reductions in cyanobacterial biomass. No significant effects were observed on bacterial biomass. CLSM imaging of biofilms at 8 weeks revealed unique endpoints in terms of community architecture. Community composition was altered by any exposure to TCS, as indicated by significant shifts in denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fingerprints and exopolymer composition relative to the reference. Bacterial, algal and cyanobacterial components initially exposed to TCS were significantly different from those TCS-free at time zero. Pigment analyses suggested that significant changes in composition of algal and cyanobacterial populations occurred with TCS exposure. Bacterial thymidine incorporation rates were reduced by TCS exposure and carbon utilization spectra shifted in terms substrate metabolism. Direct counts of protozoans indicated that TCS was suppressive, whereas micrometazoan populations were, in some instances, stimulated. These results indicate that even a relatively brief exposure of a river biofilm community to relatively low levels of TCS alters both the trajectory and final community structure. Although some evidence of recovery was observed, removal of TCS did not result in a return to the unexposed reference condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-266
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Early online date21 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Biofilm
  • Community
  • Recovery
  • Resilience
  • Rototorque
  • Triclosan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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