MEPS 132:229-239 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps132229

Stable isotope dynamics of nitrogen recycled during interactions among marine bacteria and protists

Hoch MP, Snyder RA, Cifuentes LA, Coffin RB

Variation in the distribution of stable nitrogen isotopes among different size classes of particulate organic nitrogen (PON) in aquatic environments may be partly explained by isotope effects associated with regeneration of NH4+ by the microbial food web. Protists fed the marine bacterium Vibrio natriegens were grown in batch and continuous culture to define the isotope discrimination between NH4+, microbial biomass, and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) for culture systems closed or open to exogenous nutrient inputs. In batch cultures of a flagellate Pseudobodo sp. and a scuticociliate Uronema sp., the nitrogen isotope discrimination between biomass and NH4+ was 3 to 5 o/oo during exponential growth of protists corresponding to the highest rates of biomass-specific NH4+ release. The delta15N of DON, calculated by mass balance, was very depleted in 15N relative to NH4+ and biomass during exponential and early stationary growth when DON and dissolved free amino acid (DFAA) concentrations increased. In contrast to batch culture results, for continuous culture of the flagellate the isotope discrimination between biomass and NH4+ and the change in the calculated delta15N of DON were small: 1 to 2 o/oo. Based on rates of thymidine incorporation and turnover of DFAA, protist excretion and bacterial uptake of DON were less coupled for exponentially growing protists fed starved bacteria in batch cultures than for the flagellate fed active bacteria growing in a 2-stage continuous culture. Coupling between release and utilization of DON, as well as isotope effects associated with protist metabolism, are proposed to constrain the nitrogen isotope dynamics of NH4+ suspended PON, and DON within marine ecosystems, especially those environments dominated by regenerated primary production.


Stable nitrogen isotopes . Protist grazing . Marine bacteria . Ammonium regeneration . Dissolved organic nitrogen


Full text in pdf format