The microbiome of urban waters – Non-technical Summary
With more than half the world’s population living in or near urban centers, urban waters are an important point of interaction between humans and the natural environment. Urban waterways include sewers, storm drains, and urban lakes and streams. The identity and characteristics of the microorganisms that are living in these waterways can be a good indicator of pollutions, possible risks to human health, and any other ways that humans could be affecting the natural environment. Microbes can act as indicators of how humans are affect the environment. The presence of microbes that are harmful to humans can be indicators of risks to human health, such as outbreaks of certain diseases in a population. Other microbes that are commonly linked to human waste can be an indicator of fecal contamination. Microbes linked to the breakdown of certain chemicals can indicate other forms of pollution in the water.
Microbes gather in urban waterways through several ways. Soil, building, and other surfaces that humans come into contact with can transport microbes to waterways through runoff, while the release of sewage and storm drains water into other waterways can also introduce new microbes. As these urban waterways combine, these microbes can eventually be transported to natural streams or oceans. The presence of the foreign microbes can have negative impact on the natural environment, such as impact the natural food web, which can wreak havoc on local organisms.
Citation: MacLellen, Sandra, J. Fisher, and R. Newton. The microbiome of urban waters. 2015. International Microbiology. 18:141-149.