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Effects of seasonal meteorological variables on E. coli persistence in livestock faeces and implications for environmental and human health

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Article number37101
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/11/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Scientific Reports
Number of pages10
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Agriculture contributes significant volumes of livestock faeces to land. Understanding how faecal microbes respond to shifts in meteorological patterns of contrasting seasons is important in order to gauge how environmental (and human health) risks may alter under a changing climate. The aim of this study was to: (i) quantify the temporal pattern of E. coli growth within dairy faeces post defecation; and (ii) derive E. coli seasonal population change profiles associated with contrasting environmental drivers. Evaluation of the die-off dynamics of E. coli revealed that a treatment mimicking drought and warming conditions significantly enhanced persistence relative to E. coli in faeces that were exposed to field conditions, and that this pattern was consistent across consecutive years. The internal temperature of faeces was important in driving the rate of change in the E. coli population in the immediate period post defecation, with most E. coli activity (as either die-off or growth) occurring at low dry matter content. This study highlighted that the use of seasonal E. coli persistence profiles should be approached with caution when modelling environmental and human health risks given the increased likelihood of atypical seasonal meteorological variables impacting on E. coli growth and die-off.