• microbial biodiversity;
  • dilution gradient;
  • T-RFLP;
  • enzyme activities;
  • redundant species


Biodiversity patterns have been successfully linked to many ecosystem functions, and microbial communities have been suspected to harbour a large amount of functionally redundant taxa. We manipulated the diversity of stream and lake water column bacterial communities and investigated how the reduction in diversity affects the activities of extracellular enzymes involved in dissolved organic carbon degradation. Dissimilar communities established in cultures inoculated with stream or lake bacteria and utilized different organic matter compounds as indicated by the different extracellular enzyme activities. Stream bacterial communities preferentially used plant-derived organic material such as cellulose and hemicellulose. Communities obtained from the lake, where the longer residence time might permit the organic matter to age, efficiently degraded lignin-like material and also showed higher peptide degradation capacities. The results highlight a stronger negative effect of decreasing diversity on ecosystem multifunctionality for stream than for lake bacterial communities. We found a relatively higher multifunctional redundancy in the lake as compared to the stream-derived cultures and suggest that community assembly might shape diversity–functioning relationships in freshwater bacterial communities.