AME 53:151-160 (2008)  -  DOI:

Significant decomposition of riverine humic-rich DOC by marine but not estuarine bacteria assessed in sequential chemostat experiments

Veljo Kisand1,2,*, Dagmar Rocker1, Meinhard Simon1

1Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment, University of Oldenburg, PO Box 2503,
26111 Oldenburg, Germany
2Present address: Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, Nooruse 1, Tartu 50411, Estonia

ABSTRACT: Humic substances (HS) are the most abundant natural organic compounds in aquatic and terrestrial environments. However, the bacterial degradation of HS in the estuarine salinity gradient and in coastal regions as a sink for HS, entering the open sea, is not well understood. Therefore, we studied the bacterial degradation of humic-rich dissolved organic carbon (DOC) at increasing salinities between 1 and 30 in an estuary of the southern North Sea (Weser). Three-stage chemostats, inoculated with natural brackish (salinity 5 and 15) and coastal marine (salinity 30) bacterial communities fed 0.1 µm filtered natural humic-rich freshwater adjusted to the respective salinity, were run for up to 51 d at dilution rates of 0.1 and 0.15 d–1. DOC concentrations, bacterial numbers, and production were assessed in each stage over the incubation time. In addition, the fulvic acid (FA), humic acid (HA), and hydrophilic acid (HPA) fractions of the HS were determined by XAD fractionation. At a salinity of 30, the humic-rich DOC was decomposed to more than 60%, whereas in the other 2 experiments at salinities of 15 and 5, no detectable decomposition occurred. At the highest salinity condition, all 3 HS fractions were reduced substantially, whereas at a salinity of 5, only the HA and HPA fractions decreased, and at 15, only the HA fraction decreased. In the latter experiments, concentrations of the FA and HPA fractions in some chemostat stages increased despite unchanged DOC concentration. Our study provides evidence that the main bacterial decomposition, i.e. conversion into bacterial biomass and remineralization, of humic-rich DOC occurs in the polyhaline estuarine region and that at lower salinities, only some transformation of the humic fractions takes place, modifying the adsorptive properties of the HS, but no bacterial DOC decomposition occurs. The sequential chemostats were a useful approach to study the complex process of bacterial HS decomposition.

KEY WORDS: Humic substances · DOC · Bacteria · Chemostat · Estuary · Marine

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Cite this article as: Kisand V, Rocker D, Simon M (2008) Significant decomposition of riverine humic-rich DOC by marine but not estuarine bacteria assessed in sequential chemostat experiments. Aquat Microb Ecol 53:151-160.

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