Soil Science Society of America

Temporal variation and persistence of bacteria in streams

Better understanding of bacterial fate and transport in watersheds is necessary for improved regulatory management of impaired streams. Novel statistical time series analyses of coliform data can be a useful tool for evaluating the dynamics of temporal variation and persistence of bacteria within a watershed. For this study, daily total coliform data for the Little River in East Tennessee from 1 Oct. 2000 to 31 Dec. 2005 were evaluated using novel time series techniques. The objective of this study was to analyze the total coliform concentration data to: (i) evaluate the temporal variation of the total coliform, and (ii) determine whether the total coliform concentration data demonstrated any long-term or short-term persistence. For robust analysis and comparison, both time domain and frequency domain approaches were used for the analysis.

In the time domain, an autoregressive moving average approach was used; whereas in the frequency domain, spectral analysis was applied. As expected, the analyses showed that total coliform concentrations were higher in summer months and lower in winter months. However, the more interesting results showed that the total coliform concentration exhibited short-term as well as long-term persistence ranging from about 4 wk to approximately 1 yr, respectively. Comparison of the total coliform data to hydrologic data indicated both runoff and baseflow are responsible for the persistence.

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