Open Access

Indicator bacteria community in seawater and coastal sediment: the Persian Gulf as a case

  • Vahid Noroozi Karbasdehi1,
  • Sina Dobaradaran1, 2, 3Email author,
  • Iraj Nabipour4,
  • Afshin Ostovar4,
  • Hossein Arfaeinia5,
  • Amir Vazirizadeh6,
  • Roghayeh Mirahmadi1,
  • Mozhgan Keshtkar1,
  • Fatemeh Faraji Ghasemi1 and
  • Farzaneh Khalifei1
Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering201715:6

DOI: 10.1186/s40201-017-0266-2

Received: 29 October 2016

Accepted: 7 February 2017

Published: 10 March 2017

Abstract

Background

The aim of present work was to assess the concentration levels as well as vertical distribution of indicator bacteria including total coliform, fecal coliform, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Heterotrophic Plate Count (HPC) in the marine environment (seawater and coastal sediments) and evaluate the correlation between indicator bacteria and some physicochemical parameters of surface sediments as well as seawaters.

Methods

A total number of 48 seawater and sediment samples were taken from 8 stations (each site 6 times with an interval time of 2 weeks) between June and September 2014. Seawater and sediment samples were collected from 30 cm under the surface samples and different sediment depths (0, 4, 7, 10, 15, and 20 cm) respectively, along the Persian Gulf in Bushehr coastal areas.

Results

Based on the results, the average numbers of bacterial indicators including total coliform, fecal coliform, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa as well as HPC in seawater samples were 1238.13, 150.87, 8.22 MPN/100 ml and 1742.91 CFU/ml, respectively, and in sediment samples at different depths (from 0-20 cm) varied between 25 × 103 to 51.67 × 103, 5.63 × 103 to 12.46 × 103, 17.33 to 65 MPN/100 ml, 36 × 103 to 147.5 × 103 CFU/ml, respectively. There were no statistically significant relationships between the indicator organism concentration levels with temperature as well as pH value of seawater. A reverse correlation was found between the level of indicator bacteria and salinity of seawater samples. Also results revealed that the sediment texture influenced abundance of indicators bacteria in sediments. As the concentration levels of indicators bacteria were higher in muddy sediments compare with sandy ones.

Conclusion

Result conducted Bushehr coastal sediments constitute a reservoir of indicator bacteria, therefore, whole of the indicators determined were distinguished to be present in higher levels in sediments than in the overlying seawater. It was concluded that the concentration levels of microbial indicators decreased with depth in sediments. Except total coliform, the numbers of other bacteria including fecal coliform, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and HPC bacteria significantly declined in the depth between 10 and 15 cm.

Keywords

Bushehr coastal Indicator bacteria Persian Gulf Sediment texture

Background

Recreational water and beaches are often considered as a place where sensitive individuals may contact with microbial contaminations [1]. These areas are susceptible to fecal contamination from wastewater, septic leachate, farming drainage, livestock and domestic animals, or nonpoint sources of human and animal waste [2]. Fecal contamination in maritime areas can be dangerous to recreational users because feces may contain pathogenic microorganisms that can be ingested and bring intestinal problem [3]. Epidemiological surveys have revealed the positive relationship between fecal contamination at marine beaches and swimming-related diseases [4]. Microbial indicators have been utilized worldwide to show if a water body is contaminated by fecal contamination. Some of these indicators, i.e. fecal coliforms, E. coli and Enterococcus spp., are used to monitor the fecal contamination of seawater bodies worldwide [5]. Microbial impairment of drinking, irrigation, or recreational seawaters is generally monitored using concentration levels of fecal indicator bacteria [6]. But other bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a gram-negative opportunistic human pathogen, and HPC bacteria may also be useful in defining seawater body quality [7]. Exceeding contents of indicator bacteria in seawater and sediments have been related to increased risk of pathogenic microorganism-induced sickness to humans [8]. Various researches have documented an elevated risk of contracting gastrointestinal diseases, skin infections as well as acute respiratory infections after exposure with recreational waters and seawater body with increased concentrations of indicator bacteria [912].

Within aquatic systems, it is highlighted that the indicator microorganisms can be highly related to the sediment fraction [13, 14]. This relationship is due to four ecological performances of sediments; 1) provision a place for microbial attachment [15] serves as a favorable organic substance and nutrients for microbes [16], 3) protection from environmental stresses such as sunlight UV [17], protozoan grazing [18], etc., and 4) extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) of bacteria, which enhance sediment flocculation by coagulating and attaching particles together to create a floc matrix and in turn results in an increased downward flux of sediment [19] and accordingly connected bacteria (with potential pathogens) to the sediment [20]. In general, indicator bacteria can stay alive much longer in sediment than in the water column in both freshwater and maritime environments and many studies have confirmed this [2124]. Pachepsky and Shelton [25] and Brinkmeyer et al. [26] observed significant correlations between fecal indicator bacteria in the seawater column and underlying sediments. They found that the levels of indicator bacteria in sediments considerably higher than seawaters. Koirala et al. also found that numbers of indicator organisms in sediments are greater than in water samples due to protection behavior of sediments [17]. There are some activities related to sediment resuspension in coastal areas such as commercial or recreational boating and storms that can lead to considerable effects on microbial loads of water [27]. In addition, recreational activity and wave action in the swash zone of the coast can also contribute to re-suspension the bacteria from the sediment and consequently may predispose human to health risk [1]. Bushehr province with a long coastline (more than 707 kilometers) along the Persian Gulf and its strategic and geopolitical position, as one of the most important port, is located in southwestern Iran and northern part of the Persian Gulf (Fig. 1). Bushehr as energy capital in Iran is facing with industrial pollution in its marine environment [28] and its region is of special interest for environmental studies [2933]. The climate is warm and wet in summer and mild in winter. Swimming in the Persian Gulf and playing in the coastline areas are the most important entertainments of people in the Bushehr port. Also, there are sporadic studies on organism’s concentrations in the coastal areas of the Persian Gulf but to our best knowledge there is no report yet on comprehensive and baseline data on indicator organisms profile in seawaters and sediments along the Persian Gulf. In this work for the first time in the region of the Persian Gulf, we aimed to (1) assess the concentration levels of indicator bacteria in different depths of surface sediments and seawaters as baseline information in the region (2) mapping and kriging interpolations of the microbial contamination in the surface sediments and seawaters (3) ascertain the correlation between indicator bacteria and some physicochemical parameters of surface sediments as well as seawaters.
Fig. 1

Locations of sampling stations in the study area

Methods

Chemicals and reagents

The employed media including Lactose broth, Brilliant green, EC broth and R2A agar media were prepared from Merck, Germany. The Asparagine broth and Acetamide broth media were prepared from Sigma-Aldrich, USA.

Study area and sediment sample collection

Seawater and sediment sampling were done between June and September 2014. A total number of 48 samples were taken from 8 sampling sites, including TV Park (S1), Skele-Jofreh (S2), Daneshjo Park (S3), Gomrok (S4), Skele-Solh Abad (S5), Skele-Jabri (S6), Bandargah (S7), and Shoghab (S8) (each site 6 times with an interval time of 2 weeks), which were located in the intertidal zone along the Persian Gulf in Bushehr beach zone (Fig. 1). First, seawater samples were collected from 30 cm under the surface (to avoid direct effect of sun ultraviolet radiation on the water surface layer) using a sterile 500 mL glass vessel (for bacterial analyses) and an open-mouthed bottle (for physicochemical parameters analysis). Next, surface sediments were collected from different depth (including 0, 4, 7, 10, 15 and 20 cm) using an Ekman steel grab sampler (25 × 25 × 25 cm3). For each sampling sites, 2–4 sampling points were selected based on the place or shape, and samplings was carried out. The pH of each samples were measured in the place directly after sampling using a U-50 multi-parameter water quality checker (HORIBA, Germany). Samples were placed in a cold box (temperature roughly 4 ̊C and darkness) [34] and directly transported to the lab in coolers on ice within 2 hours.

Media and procedures for bacterial analysis

All microbial indicator analyses including total coliform, fecal coliform, Pseudomonas aeruginosa as well as HPC bacteria were done according to standard methods [34]. Lactose broth, EC broth and asparagine broth were employed to determine the most probable number (MPN) per 100 ml of total coliforms, fecal coliforms, as well as Pseudomonas aeruginosa respectively, using a five-tube multiple-dilution technique. R2A agar was used to ascertain the colony forming unit (CFU) per ml of HPC bacteria, using the spread plate technique. In the case of sediment samples, sediments were mixed thoroughly and diluted 1:10 with sterile distilled water (1 g of sediment added into 9 ml of sterile distilled water). This mixture was centrifuged with a speed of 8000 rpm for l-2 min and then was left to stand for 5-10 min to allow big particles to settle. Sediment suspensions were subsequently processed by the similar procedures as for water samples.

Grain size analysis of sediment samples

Sediment samples were collected by a grab sampler and coning and quartering technique was used to prepare sediments for grain size analysis [35]. Coning and quartering method involves five steps including: (1) pour the samples onto a flat surface to form a cone (2) flatting the cone (3) divide cone in half (4) divides halves into quarters and discard alternate quarters (5) two quarters are retain and mix together, reform cone and repeats steps until remaining sample be in a correct amount for analysis). After 5 cited steps, sediment sample was kept in a polythene bag labeled with number and location and transferred to the laboratory by cold box and stored in the freezer at -20 °C until grain size examination according to Buchanan’s method [36]. For analysis, sediment dried for 24 hours at 70 °C in Heraeus oven (UT 6420 model). 25 grams of dried sediment of each sample were put in a flask containing 250 ml of distilled water. Then 10 ml of 2.6 grams per liter of sodium hexametaphosphate [Na (PO3)6] solution was added to the flask contents. After stirring the solution three times, each time for nearly 15 minutes, it was kept in the laboratory for 24 hours. In order to dry, the solution was placed in chines plates and then moved to the oven at 70 °C for 24 hours. After drying , samples were sieved by shaker Heraeus device (Analysette 3PRO model), and a series of sieves including 4, 2, 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.125 and 0.0625 mm which climbed on each other, respectively and a container were placed under them (for weight the particles smaller than 0.0625 mm). Each sample was kept on device for 15 minutes. After that the sediment remaining on each sieve, and sediments of the lower container, weighed carefully with an accuracy of 0.1 mg. By multiplying the weight of each sieve in 4, the percent of its grain size was obtained. Finally as a percentage of dry matter in the sediment, have been reported in 4 different ranges (coarse sand (>500 μm), medium sand (500-250 μm), fine sand (250-125 μm), mud (<125 μm)). So the dominant group determined the types of grain size.

Data analysis

Statistical processing of data was done by using the SPSS version 20 (IBM Corp., USA). The normality of data was checked by the Shapiro-Wilk test before analyzing. Descriptive statistics were applied for presentation of total coliform, fecal coliform, Pseudomonas aeruginosa as well as HPC concentration levels in seawater and sediment samples. Parametric Pearson test was applied to establish correlations between association of sediment and seawater characteristics and concentration levels of indicator bacteria. ArcMap 10.2 Geographical Information System (GIS) (ESRI, Redlands, CA) was also used as an appropriate tool for mapping and kriging interpolations of the bacterial concentration levels.

Result and discussion

Seawater

Number of bacterial indicators

The concentration levels of bacterial indicators in seawater samples of Bushehr coastal areas are presented in Fig. 2 and related data is summarized in Table 1. The average numbers of bacterial indicators including total coliform, fecal coliform, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa as well as HPC in seawater samples were 1238.13, 150.87, 8.22 MPN/100 ml and 1742.91 CFU/ml, respectively.
Fig. 2

The spatial distribution of bacterial organisms in seawater samples of Bushehr coastal areas

Table 1

The mean, SD, minimum and maximum values of bacterial indicator levels in seawater samples at different stations (maximum values are expressed as bold italics; minimum values as bold underlined)

Indicator bacteria

Station

N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Minimum

Maximum

Total coliform (MPN/100 ml)

1

6

800

112.07

600

920

2

6

1220

184.93

920

1400

3

6

1000

161.12

680

1100

4

6

1050

168.99

750

1200

5

6

1800

328.00

1200

2200

6

6

1750

339.76

1100

2000

7

6

885

111.23

660

950

8

6

1400

247.54

920

1600

Average

 

48

1238.12

206.7

853.75

1421.25

Fecal coliform (MPN/100 ml)

1

6

103.67

15.57

79

120

2

6

165

8.07

160

180

3

6

111.17

17.11

94

140

4

6

143.33

20.15

110

170

5

6

213.33

72.67

110

330

6

6

193.33

43.29

140

260

7

6

107.17

16.29

79

130

8

6

170

38.14

110

230

Average

48

150.875

28.91125

110.25

195

Pseudomonas (MPN/100 ml)

1

6

4.50

1.22

3

6

2

6

8.50

2.07

5

11

3

6

6.33

2.16

3

9

4

6

7.33

2.58

4

11

5

6

13.00

2.28

11

17

6

6

11.00

1.414

9

13

7

6

4.83

1.169

3

6

8

6

10.33

1.966

7

12

Average

48

8.227

1.857

5.625

10.625

HPC (CFU/ml)

1

6

1150.00

89.443

1000

1250

2

6

1841.67

724.166

1100

2800

3

6

1350.00

420.095

940

1850

4

6

1743.33

406.776

1350

2500

5

6

2358.33

941.497

1500

3500

6

6

2173.33

344.770

1890

2700

7

6

1248.33

217.754

970

1610

8

6

2078.33

302.815

1640

2400

Average

48

1742.91

430.914

1298.75

2326.25

The highest average numbers of bacterial indicators in seawater samples between all stations were found in S5 and S6, which were the samples collected from the Solh-Abad and Jabari fishing ports with more frequent anthropogenic activities. Hamilton et al. have previously reported that pollutants from anthropogenic -influenced sources may carry diverse bacteria into the beaches and seawaters [37]. These cited fishing ports were also close to the pisciculture and aquaculture zones for fish and shellfish. Fish and shellfish are effective filter feeders and concentrate high levels of aquatic microorganisms such as fecal coliform and other bacteria in their bodies and may be built up to contents serious to human health. Most incidents of fecal contamination of aquaculture areas are ascribed to anthropogenic origins of such as illegal discharges from boats, inadequately maintained septic systems and run-off from farms [36]. Due to such risks to human health, it is proposed that all fishing ports with high concentration levels of indicators bacteria (like these two stations in Bushehr coastal area) rigidly monitored and categorized by individual state health authorities. Generally, ports ‘approved’ for fishing must not exceed particular amounts of contamination, especially threshold values of fecal coliforms.

In addition to above mentioned two stations, one of the highest average numbers of bacterial indicators was found in S8 with an average levels of 1400, 170, 10.33 MPN/100 ml and 2078.33 CFU/ml for total coliform, fecal coliform, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, as well as HPC respectively. This station is located in coastal area of the Shoghab Park, which is facing wide variety anthropogenic sources such as swimmers feces, throwing up garbage via tourisms, domestic wastewater treatment and disposal practices that may lead to the entrance of high levels of coliform bacteria and enteric human pathogens into the seawater. This area is also frequently utilized for recreational applications such a swimming, recreational fishing and recreational boating. Fecal pollution at swimming marine area can be dangerous to human health because feces may comprise bacteria, viruses and protozoa and there is possibility of feeding by swimmers which leads to various diseases [1].

Physical and chemical factors

The physical and chemical characteristics of seawater samples from the eight stations were determined and the maximum, minimum, mean and standard deviation values are presented in Table 2. The results of physical parameter measurements in seawater samples showed that these parameters are not tangible changed at different stations. The mean values of temperature and pH in seawater samples were in the range of 31.5-32.5°C and 8.16-8.41 respectively. The salinity in seawater samples was in the range between 27.7 and 37 ppt. Pearson analysis showed that there was a significant inverse correlation between the concentrations levels of total coliforms, fecal coliforms, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and salinity of seawater samples, and a weak inverse correlation between salinity and HPC bacteria (Fig. 3). Therefore, the data revealed that with decreasing salinity, there was a corresponding increase in the values of indicator bacteria in seawater samples. A negative effect of salinity is attributed to specific characteristics of sea water, such as osmotic pressure and the toxicity of inorganic salts [38]. Most studies showed a negative correlation between values of indicator bacteria and salinity. For example, Rozen and Belkini found a reverse correlation between the level of E. coli and water salinity in seawater [39]. An inverse correlation between survival of E. coli and salinity of water has also been demonstrated by Anderson et al. [40]. In contrast to our studies, Jozić et al showed that there was no statistically significant effect of salinity on the E. coli bacteria [41]. Also Pearson analysis showed there were no statistically significant correlations between temperature and pH parameters and indicator organisms (Fig. 4 and Fig. 5). Similarly, Guyal et al. found that the indicator organisms (total coliforms, fecal coliforms, and salmonellae) were no statistically significant relationships with temperature, pH, turbidity, and suspended solids contents of seawater [42].
Table 2

The mean, SD, minimum and maximum values of temperature, pH and salinity in seawater samples at various stations (maximum values are expressed as bold italics; minimum values as bold underlined)

 

Station

N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Minimum

Maximum

Temperature (°C)

1

6

31.83

0.637

31.04

32.62

2

6

32.00

0.515

31.34

32.66

3

6

32.00

0.860

31.02

33.01

4

6

32.48

0.805

31.62

33.38

5

6

32.17

0.696

31.38

32.96

6

6

31.83

0.422

31.04

32.62

7

6

32.50

0.698

31.46

33.16

8

6

31.50

0.724

30.93

32.07

Average

 

48

32.04

0.67

31.23

32.81

pH

1

6

8.38

0.423

7.79

8.88

2

6

8.35

0.187

8.10

8.60

3

6

8.16

0.037

8.10

8.20

4

6

8.26

0.071

8.20

8.40

5

6

8.41

0.330

7.74

8.60

6

6

8.21

0.117

7.99

8.30

7

6

8.48

0.179

8.23

8.71

8

6

8.23

0.267

7.89

8.71

Average

 

48

8.227

0.201

8.01

8.55

Salinity (ppt)

1

6

37

0.648

36.2

38

2

6

30.1

1.859

28.7

33.6

3

6

35.1

1.334

33.2

36.5

4

6

32.4

1.545

31.1

35.4

5

6

27.7

2.126

24.2

29.9

6

6

28.9

1.898

25.3

30.4

7

6

35.6

2.459

32.1

37.6

8

6

29.6

1.283

28.2

31.5

Average

 

48

32.05

1.644

29.875

34.112

Fig. 3

Pearson correlation between the levels of all examined indicator organisms and salinity of seawater samples

Fig. 4

Pearson correlation between the concentrations of all examined indicator bacteria and temperature of seawater samples

Fig. 5

Pearson correlation between the concentrations of all examined indicator bacteria and pH of seawater samples

In another study, Shibata et al. reported that except total coliform, there were no statistically significant relationships between the concentrations levels of enterococci, Escherichia coli, fecal coliform, and C. perfringens and physical–chemical parameters (rainfall, temperature, pH, and salinity) [43]. But Blaustein et al. [44] and Sampson et al. [45] found that temperature was a major factor in the survival of E. coli in surface waters. In another study Placha et al. reported that the survival of Salmonella typhimurium and indicator bacteria (coliform and faecal coliform bacteria and faecal streptococci) was considerably affected by temperature [46].

Sediment

Number of bacterial indicators

The concentration levels of bacterial indicators in sediment samples of Bushehr coastal are given in Fig. 6 and associated data is summarized in Table 3. The mean log values of bacterial indicators between eight stations at various depths were compared and are shown in Fig. 7.
Fig. 6

The spatial distribution of bacterial organisms in sediment samples of Bushehr coastal areas

Table 3

The mean, SD, minimum and maximum values of bacterial indicators levels in various stations at different depths of sediment (maximum values are expressed as bold italics; minimum values as bold underlined)

 

Depth (cm)

Station 1

Station 2

Station 3

Station 4

Station 5

Station 6

Station 7

Station 8

Total coliform

(MPN/100 ml)

0

51.67 × 10 3

75.83 × 10 3

52.17 × 10 3

71.67 × 10 3

138.33 × 10 3

131.67 × 10 3

52.17 × 10 3

75.83 × 10 3

4

46 × 103

65.66 × 103

45.33 × 103

60.5 × 103

125.67 × 103

118.33 × 103

44.5 × 103

62.83 × 103

7

38.83 × 103

56.17 × 103

41.33 × 103

52.16 × 103

107.17 × 103

102 × 103

40.83 × 103

56.83 × 103

10

34.17 × 103

46.33 × 103

36.83 × 103

43.17 × 103

93.5 × 103

86.5 × 103

36.33 × 103

48.5 × 103

15

29 × 103

34 × 103

29.33 × 103

30.33 × 103

89.66 × 103

76 × 103

29 × 103

33 × 103

20

25 × 10 3

25.33 × 10 3

25.67 × 10 3

22 × 10 3

81 × 10 3

67.66 × 10 3

25 × 10 3

26 × 10 3

 

Average

37.44 × 103

50.55 × 103

38.44 × 103

46.63 × 103

105.88 × 103

97.02 × 103

37.97 × 103

50.5 × 103

Fecal coliform

(MPN/100 ml)

0

12.46 × 10 3

18.66 × 10 3

13.73 × 10 3

20.16 × 10 3

31 × 10 3

27.17 × 10 3

11.23 × 10 3

25.66 × 10 3

4

11.33 × 103

17.16 × 103

11.9 × 103

17.66 × 103

29.33 × 103

24.66 × 103

9.8 × 103

22.33 × 103

7

10.21 × 103

14.66 × 103

10.8 × 103

15.73 × 103

26.83 × 103

23 × 103

8.2 × 103

19.67 × 103

10

9.26 × 103

11.33 × 103

9.56 × 103

12.86 × 103

24 × 103

21.67 × 103

7.2 × 103

17.7 × 103

15

6.76

10.5 × 103

6.83 × 103

6.83 × 103

21.67 × 103

20 × 103

5.26 × 103

10.8 × 103

20

5.63 × 10 3

8.66 × 10 3

5.26 × 10 3

5.26 × 10 3

18.33 × 10 3

17.33 × 10 3

3.76 × 10 3

9 × 10 3

 

Average

9.28 × 103

13.5 × 103

9.68 × 103

13.09 × 103

25.19 × 103

22.3 × 103

7.52 × 103

17.42 × 103

Pseudomonas

(MPN/100 ml)

0

65

108.83

62.6

73.5

160

156.6

39.5

87.6

4

58.83

97

52.3

62.3

135

125

37

72.6

7

57.33

82.6

47.6

51.5

122.3

108

33.16

66.3

10

46.1

70.8

40.5

43.3

104.5

91.6

27.6

57.16

15

22

42.6

23.66

24

101

84

22

27

20

17.33

29.3

18.6

17.33

86.33

73

16

20. 6

 

Average

44.43

71.85

40.88

45.32

118.19

106.36

29.21

62.13

HPC

(CFU/ml)

0

147.5 × 10 3

159.42 × 10 3

131.67 × 10 3

148.35 × 10 3

224.83 × 10 3

230.66 × 10 3

110.5 × 10 3

176.83 × 10 3

4

132.5 × 103

148 × 103

117.33 × 103

138 × 103

210.17 × 103

204.67 × 103

102.8 × 103

167.33 × 103

7

119.42 × 103

135.5 × 103

104.17 × 103

126.17 × 103

199.83 × 103

194.5 × 103

95.62 × 103

161.17 × 103

10

109.63 × 103

119.92 × 103

88.83 × 103

117.83 × 103

186 × 103

180.67 × 103

89.04 × 103

147.17 × 103

15

50.33 × 103

96.33 × 103

53 × 103

78.66 × 103

175 × 103

161.67 × 103

50.33 × 103

98.33 × 103

20

36 × 10 3

80.67 × 10 3

40 × 10 3

67.66 × 10 3

159.67 × 10 3

149 × 10 3

36 × 10 3

90.33 × 10 3

 

Average

99.23 × 103

123.3 × 103

89.17 × 103

112.78 × 103

192.58 × 103

186.86 × 103

80.71 × 103

140.19 × 103

Fig. 7

Compare the mean log values of total coliform, fecal coliform, pseudomonas aeruginosa and HPC bacteria between eight stations at various depths

As seen in Table 3, the levels of total coliforms, fecal coliform, pseudomonas aeruginosa as well as HPC in sediment samples at different depths (from 0-20 cm) in stations (1 to 8) varied between 25 × 103 and 51.67 × 103, 5.63 × 103 and 12.46 × 103, 17.33 and 65, 36 × 103 and 147.5 × 103 respectively. The indicators bacteria counts at S5 and S6 sites, (hereinafter termed as the polluted sites) were considerably greater than those at the other six sites. It is also possible that the types of nutrients present in two stations are different from other stations and are more easily utilized by indicators bacteria. The ecological occurrence of indicators organisms in coastal area sediment has been documented [1, 43, 47]. In our study like many former studies [14, 23, 40], the numbers of indicator organisms in all examined sampling sites were higher for sediment samples compare to seawater samples. This may be due to the fact that sediments probably serve as a suitable environment for bacterial survival [48]. In present work, indicator bacteria were 10 to 100 times higher in sediments than in seawater samples. Crabill et al. reported that the average counts of fecal coliforms in sediment samples were 2200 times higher than the water counts [49]. In another research by Davies and Bavor, they confirmed that sediments may have 10 to 10,000 times higher amounts of fecal indicator organisms compare with the overlying seawater [22]. This may be due to the adsorption and sedimentation tend to remove organisms from suspension and concentrate them in bottom sediments [39]. But many studies reviewed by Pachepsky and Shelton [25], Brinkmeyer et al. [26] reported no correlations between indicators bacteria in the water column and underlying sediments.

The general decay of indicators number in sediment

Our results showed that the concentration levels of bacterial indicators decreased with depth (Table 4). This may be due to the death and inactivation of bacteria with depth. Because sediments is a natural filter that ensnares environmental particulates, organic substance and microorganisms [50, 51]. Our study are in accordance with former studies reported by Brinkmeyer et al. [26], Alm et al. [1], Haller et al. [21], and Pachepsky and Shelton [25].
Table 4

Mean concentration levels and mean log numbers of indicators bacteria (the average of eight stations) in sediment samples at various depths

Depth (cm)

N

Mean

Log number

Std. Deviation

Minimum

Maximum

Total coliform

(MPN/100 ml)

0

48

81.17 × 103

4.909

34.65 × 103

43 × 103

180 × 103

4

48

71.34 × 103

4.853

32.58 × 103

34 × 103

170 × 103

7

48

61.92 × 103

4.792

27.54 × 103

33 × 103

140 × 103

10

48

53.17 × 103

4.725

23.99 × 103

31 × 103

130 × 103

15

48

43.78 × 103

4.641

25.32 × 103

26 × 103

120 × 103

20

48

37.21 × 103

4.571

23.76 × 103

21 × 103

110 × 103

Fecal coliform

(MPN/100 ml)

0

48

20 × 103

4.301

8.17 × 103

9 × 103

35 × 103

4

48

18 × 103

4.255

7.68 × 103

7.9 × 103

33 × 103

7

48

16.1 × 103

4.207

7.189 × 103

6.3 × 103

31 × 103

10

48

14.1 × 103

4.149

6.77 × 103

4.9 × 103

27 × 103

15

48

11.08 × 103

4.044

6.18 × 103

4.6 × 103

22 × 103

20

48

9.16 × 103

3.961

5.59 × 103

3.1 × 103

21 × 103

Pseudomonas

(MPN/100 ml)

0

48

94.23

1.974

49.656

26

240

4

48

80.02

1.903

38.793

23

180

7

48

71.13

1.852

34.742

22

170

10

48

60.23

1.779

29.826

21

140

15

48

43.29

1.636

31.403

17

130

20

48

34.83

1.541

27.864

14

110

HPC

(CFU/ml)

0

48

166.2 × 103

5.220

51.39 × 103

83 × 103

35 × 103

4

48

152.6 × 103

5.183

45.32 × 103

76 × 103

241 × 103

7

48

142 × 103

5.152

45.48 × 103

65 × 103

232 × 103

10

48

129.8 × 103

5.113

44.38 × 103

56 × 103

199 × 103

15

48

95.4 × 103

4.979

47.34 × 103

43 × 103

182 × 103

20

48

82.4 × 103

4.916

47.62 × 103

26 × 103

172 × 103

As shown in Fig. 8, general decay pattern for examined bacterial indicators in sediments of Bushehr coastal areas are presented. These pattern can be useful to anticipate indicator bacteria numbers in marine environment sediments considering sediment texture and grain size. The highest percent decline of total coliform was found in depth between 0 and 4 cm, but the highest percent decline of fecal coliform, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and HPC bacteria were found in depth between 10 and 15 cm (Fig. 9). Haller et al. found that the concentration levels of bacterial indicators decreased with depth. They reported this can be due to decrease in organic matter content, they found out that organic matter content in the sediments samples reduced with depth, from 25% at 0–2 cm to 15% at 10 cm depth [21]. Brinkmeyer et al. detected a considerable reduction in the contents of indicator bacteria from the top 1 cm (104 to 105) to the deeper 15, 30, and 60 cm horizons (102 to 103) [26].
Fig. 8

General decay pattern for the microbial indicators in marine sediment

Fig. 9

Percent decline (%) of bacteria in marine sediment with depth

Grain size analysis

Sediment grain size analysis in Bushehr coastal areas along the Persian Gulf are shown in Table 5. As seen, sediments in five stations (Skele-Jofreh (S2), Gomrok (S4), Skele-Solh Abad (S5), Skele-Jabri (S6), and Shoghab (S8)) have a texture of silt – clay (mud) and a diameter less than 125 μm, but sediments in three stations (TV Park (S1), Daneshjo Park (S3), and Bandargah (S7)), have a texture of fine sand and a diameter between 125-250 μm. Our results revealed that the concentrations of indicators organisms were greater in muddy sediments compare with sandy ones. It is a fact that fine-grained sediment due to the higher surface area to volume ratio has more potential to tend higher concentration levels of bacterial indicators [5254]. In a study by Lang and Smith, it was concluded that the clay amount of soils is particularly important regarding to abundance of indicator bacteria, as clay particles protected bacteria against predators and higher availability of substrates and moisture than sand particles [55]. A higher level of E. coli in sites with higher percent of clay and silt and lower sand has been reported in former studies [56, 57]. Burton et al. found that E. coli survival was higher in sediments containing at least 25% clay (particles less than 2 mm in diameter), presumably due to enhanced attachment to the finer sediment particles [58]. In contrast to our study, Cinotto et al. reported that E. coli survival was higher in sediments with mainly big particles (ranging in size from 125 to 500 mm), possibly due to bigger sediment particles facilitate increased permeability and accessibility of nutrients [59].
Table 5

Sediment grain size analysis in Bushehr port coasts at various stations

Station

Mesh (mm)

Texture

4

2

1

0.5

0.25

0.125

0.063

<0.063

1

0.934

3.728

5.756

8.938

35.327

38.158

6.794

0.437

Fine sand

2

0.283

1.412

1.226

3.796

8.443

29.172

53.848

1.820

Silt – clay

3

1.110

4.084

4.809

10.844

16.576

42.916

14.540

5.120

Fine sand

4

6.892

3.325

2.697

2.196

2.777

18.742

58.756

4.613

Silt – clay

5

1.418

1.141

0.710

0.411

0.729

31.861

64.316

0.740

Silt – clay

6

0.568

0.561

1.02

1.694

4.372

21.813

67.44

2.525

Silt – clay

7

0.221

0.132

0.676

10.328

17.910

37.431

30.254

3.046

Fine sand

8

0

0.242

0.418

0.951

4.716

39.661

51.831

2.18

Silt – clay

Conclusion

The present study was the first attempt to survey indicators bacteria profiles in seawater and sediment of coastal area along the Persian Gulf. Our study revealed that there was a reverse correlation between the levels of indicator bacteria and salinity of seawater samples. The levels of indicator organisms were 10 to 100 times higher in sediments than in seawater samples. The concentration levels of indicators bacteria were higher in muddy sediments compare with sandy ones. Our results revealed that the concentration levels of bacterial indicators decreased with depth. Our presented models in this study can be useful models to anticipate indicator bacteria numbers in marine environment sediments considering sediment texture and grain size. The orders of indicator bacteria numbers in seawater and sediment samples were HPC > total coliform > fecal coliform > pseudomonas aeruginosa. The concentration levels of indicator bacteria in sampling stations showed that coastal areas along the Persian Gulf are facing a wide variety of anthropogenic sources. Finally monitoring and mitigation measures of marine environment particularly in places with entertainments uses are greatly suggested.

Abbreviations

GIS: 

Geographical Information System

HPC: 

Heterotrophic Plate Count

Declarations

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the Bushehr University of Medical Sciences for their financial support. This project was partly supported by Iran National Science Foundation (Research Chair Award No. 95/INSF/44913).

Funding

This study was performed as a master thesis in Environmental Health Engineering founded by Bushehr University of Medical Science.

Availability of data and materials

Additional data from the study are available by request to the corresponding author by email.

Authors’ contributions

VNK was the main investigator, collected the samples and data, and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. SD was the supervisor of study in all steps, edited and polished the final version of manuscript. IN has guided this manuscript. AO performed the statistical analysis. AV and HA were advisors of the study. RM, MK, FFG and FK conducted the experiments. All authors read and approved the final version of manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Consent for publication

“Not applicable”

Ethics approval and consent to participate

“Not applicable”

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Faculty of Health, Bushehr University of Medical Sciences
(2)
The Persian Gulf Marine Biotechnology Research Center, The Persian Gulf Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, Bushehr University of Medical Sciences
(3)
Systems Environmental Health, Oil, Gas and Energy Research Center, The Persian Gulf Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, Bushehr University of Medical Sciences
(4)
The Persian Gulf Tropical Medicine Research Center, The Persian Gulf Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, Bushehr University of Medical Sciences
(5)
Environmental Health Department, School of Public Health, Iran University of Medical Sciences
(6)
The Persian Gulf Studies and Researches Center Marine Biotechnology Department, Persian Gulf University

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© The Author(s). 2017

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