ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202205.0250.v1
Subject: Environmental And Earth Sciences, Environmental Science Keywords: beach; coastal sand; fecal contamination; FIB; microbial source tracking (MST)
Online: 19 May 2022 (04:18:30 CEST)
Beach sand may act as a reservoir for numerous micro-organisms, including enteric pathogens. Several of these pathogens originate in human or animal feces, which may pose a public health risk. In August 2019, high levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) were detected in the sand of the Azorean beach Prainha, Terceira Island, Portugal. Remediation measures were promptly implemented, including sand removal and the spraying of chlorine to restore the beach sand quality. To determine the biological source of the contamination, during the first campaign, supratidal sand samples were collected from several sites along the beach, followed by microbial source tracking (MST) analyses of Bacteroides markers for five animal species, including humans. Some of the sampling sites revealed the presence of marker genes from dogs, seagulls, and ruminants. Making use of the information on biological sources originating partially from dogs, the municipality enforced restrictive measures for dog-walking at the beach. Subsequent sampling campaigns detected low FIB contamination due to the mitigation and remediation measures that were undertaken, thereby no longer requiring MST marker-gene analysis. This is the first case study where the MST approach was used to determine the contamination sources in the supratidal sand of a coastal beach. Our results show that MST can be an essential approach to determine sources of fecal contamination in the sand. This study shows the importance of holistic management of beaches that should go beyond water quality monitoring for FIB, putting forth evidence for the need for sands also to be monitored.