PCR and quantitative PCR (qPCR) primers targeting the 16S rRNA gene were used to detect and quantify members of the genus Fibrobacter in lake water, sediment and colonized cotton taken from two freshwater lakes. Phylogenetic analysis identified two groups of sequences; those clustered with Fibrobacter succinogenes, the type species, and a defined cluster of clones loosely associated with several Fibrobacter sequences observed previously in clone libraries from freshwater environments. 16S rRNA gene sequences recovered in the same way from soil samples and ovine feces in the surrounding land were all F. succinogenes and did not include any from this group of the "freshwater" Fibrobacteres. In all cases, nested PCR was required to detect Fibrobacter 16S rRNA genes, and qPCR analysis of reverse transcribed bacterial community RNA confirmed their very low relative abundance on colonized cotton baits in the water column (at 0, 3, 7, 11, and 13 m) and on the sediment surface (< 0.02% of total bacterial rRNA). However, in Esthwaite Water sediment itself, the relative abundance of fibrobacters was 2 orders of magnitude higher (ca. 1% of total bacterial rRNA). The presence of fibrobacters, including the cellulolytic rumen species F. succinogenes, on colonized cellulose samples and in lake sediment suggests that these organisms may contribute to the primary degradation of plant and algal biomass in freshwater lake ecosystems.