Part of the book: Cellulose
The ‘Microbial Cities’ vision of bacterial biofilms has dominated our understanding of the development and functioning of bacterial aggregations for the past 20 years, during which active sludge, clumps, colonies, flocs, mats, pellicles, rafts, slimes, zooglea, etc. have been largely forgotten or ignored. Although the medically inspired developmental model of human pathogen biofilms has merits including providing a rationale for the development of anti-biofilm therapeutics, it fails to provide links to other types of bacterial aggregation that are commonly found in a wide range of natural and man-made environments. Possibly as a result, applied and environmental microbiologists tend to avoid the term ‘biofilm’ and use others such as ‘microbial mats’ instead. Here we challenge the simplistic planktonic (independent and free-swimming bacteria)-biofilm (sessile and co-operative bacteria) dichotomy, and consider biofilms within the larger context of bacterial aggregations. By placing biofilms into context, which we see as a continuum of aggregations or communities with varying abiotic and biotic properties, fundamental physical, biological, and evolutionary ecological processes that effect community development and function can no longer be considered unique to biofilms, but may also be important in other aggregations that develop over time and change in nature depending on prevailing conditions. By doing this, we will be better able to distinguish those processes which govern bacterial colonisation and ecological success in a wider sense from those that are unique to particular environments and specialised strategies.
Part of the book: Microbial Biofilms