AME 39:107-119 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/ame039107

Source and supply of terrestrial organic matter affects aquatic microbial metabolism

Jay T. Lennon1,2,*, Liza E. Pfaff1

1Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755-3576, USA
2Present address: Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Box G, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA

ABSTRACT: Aquatic ecosystems are connected to their surrounding watersheds through inputs of terrestrial-derived dissolved organic matter (DOM). The assimilation of this allochthonous resource by recipient bacterioplankton has consequences for food webs and the biogeochemistry of aquatic ecosystems. We used laboratory batch experiments to examine how variation in the source and supply (i.e. concentration) of DOM affects the productivity, respiration and growth efficiency of heterotrophic lake bacterioplankton. We created 6 different DOM sources from soils beneath near-monotypic tree stands in a temperate deciduous–coniferous forest. We then exposed freshwater microcosms containing a natural microbial community to a 1100 µM supply gradient of each DOM source. Bacterial productivity (BP) and bacterial respiration (BR) increased linearly over the broad gradient, on average consuming 7% of the standing pool of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Bacterial metabolism was also influenced by the chemical composition of the DOM source. Carbon-specific productivity declined exponentially with an increase in the carbon:phosphorus (C:P) ratio of the different DOM sources, consistent with the predictions of ecological stoichiometry. Together, our short-term laboratory experiments quantitatively describe the metabolic responses of freshwater bacterioplankton to variation in the supply of terrestrial-derived DOM. Furthermore, our results suggest that dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) content, which may be linked to the identity of terrestrial vegetation, is indicative of DOM quality and influences the productivity of freshwater bacterioplankton.

KEY WORDS: Allochthonous · Bacteria · DOC · DOM · Ecosystem · Plankton · Stoichiometry · Subsidy

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