AME 53:21-38 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/ame01230

Towards a better understanding of microbial carbon flux in the sea*

Josep M. Gasol1,**, Jarone Pinhassi2,**, Laura Alonso-Sáez3, Hugh Ducklow4, Gerhard J. Herndl5, Michal Koblízek6, Matthias Labrenz7, Yawei Luo4, Xosé Anxelu G. Morán4,8, Thomas Reinthaler5, Meinhard Simon9

1Institut de Ciències del Mar-CSIC, Pg. Marítim de la Barceloneta 37–49, 08003 Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
2School of Pure & Applied Natural Sciences, University of Kalmar, 39182 Kalmar, Sweden
3Department of Ecology & Evolution, Limnology group, Uppsala University, PO Box 573, 75123 Uppsala, Sweden
4The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
5Dept. Biological Oceanography, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (Royal NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, The Netherlands
6Institute of Microbiology CAS, Opatovick´y ml´yn, 379 81 Trebon and Institute of Physical Biology JU, Zámek 136,
373 33 Nové Hrady, Czech Republic
7IOW-Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Seestrasse 15, 18119 Rostock-Warnemünde, Germany
8Centro Oceanográfico de Xixón, Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Camín de L’Arbeyal, s/n, 33212 Xixón, Spain
9Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment, University of Oldenburg, 26111 Oldenburg, Germany
*All authors contributed equally to this paper
**Emails: ,

ABSTRACT: We now have a relatively good idea of how bulk microbial processes shape the cycling of organic matter and nutrients in the sea. The advent of the molecular biology era in microbial ecology has resulted in advanced knowledge about the diversity of marine microorganisms, suggesting that we might have reached a high level of understanding of carbon fluxes in the oceans. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are large gaps in the understanding of the role of bacteria in regulating carbon fluxes. These gaps may result from methodological as well as conceptual limitations. For example, should bacterial production be measured in the light? Can bacterial production conversion factors be predicted, and how are they affected by loss of tracers through respiration? Is it true that respiration is relatively constant compared to production? How can accurate measures of bacterial growth efficiency be obtained? In this paper, we discuss whether such questions could (or should) be addressed. Ongoing genome analyses are rapidly widening our understanding of possible metabolic pathways and cellular adaptations used by marine bacteria in their quest for resources and struggle for survival (e.g. utilization of light, acquisition of nutrients, predator avoidance, etc.). Further, analyses of the identity of bacteria using molecular markers (e.g. subgroups of Bacteria and Archaea) combined with activity tracers might bring knowledge to a higher level. Since bacterial growth (and thereby consumption of DOC and inorganic nutrients) is likely regulated differently in different bacteria, it will be critical to learn about the life strategies of the key bacterial species to achieve a comprehensive understanding of bacterial regulation of C fluxes. Finally, some processes known to occur in the microbial food web are hardly ever characterized and are not represented in current food web models. We discuss these issues and offer specific comments and advice for future research agendas.


KEY WORDS: Carbon flux · Microbial ecology · Ocean · Bacteria · Protists · Light · Genomics · Chemoautotrophy · Models


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Cite this article as: Gasol JM, Pinhassi J, Alonso-Sáez L, Ducklow H and others (2008) Towards a better understanding of microbial carbon flux in the sea*. Aquat Microb Ecol 53:21-38

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