The increasing-volume release of micropollutants into natural surface waters has raised great concern due to their environmental accumulation. Persisting micropollutants can impact multiple generations of organisms via recurrent exposure, but their microbially-mediated degradation and the influence on community assembly remain understudied. Here, freshwater microbes were treated with four common micropollutants, alone or in combination, and then transferred to fresh medium containing the same level of micropollutants every 5-day to mimic the recurrent exposure of microbes for 35 days. The degradation of micropollutants and the associated communities were surveyed for each transfer. Even though the degradation of micropollutants did not accelerate over time, the degradation per se altered the microbial community composition. Community assembly was dominated by stochastic processes during early exposure, via random community changes and emergence of seedbanks, and deterministic processes later in the exposure, via advanced community succession. Early exposure stages were characterized by the presence of sensitive microorganisms such as Actinobacteria and Planctomycetes, which were then replaced by more tolerant bacteria such as Bacteroidetes and Gammaproteobacteria. This succession was tightly linked to a high degradation of bisphenol A and a lower one for triclosan. We hypothesize that microbes are not robust to micropollutant persistence but have an intrinsic capacity to recover from that disturbance by acquiring carbon and energy from micropollutant degradation. Our findings have important implication for ecological feedback between microbe-micropollutants under anthropogenic climate change scenarios.
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