MEPS 187:43-57 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps187043

Seasonal compensation of microbial production and respiration in a temperate sea

Pablo Serret1,*, Emilio Fernández2, Jorge A. Sostres1, Ricardo Anadón1

1Universidad de Oviedo, Departamento de Biología de Organismos y Sistemas, c/Catedrático R Uría s/n, 33071 Oviedo, Spain
2Universidade de Vigo, Departamento de Ecoloxía e Bioloxía Animal, Campus Lagoas-Marcosende, 36200 Vigo, Spain
*Present address: Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, United Kingdom. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Gross oxygen production (GP), dark respiration (DR) and net community production (NCP) were studied for 16 mo in the euphotic layer of 3 stations through the coastal transitional zone of the southern Bay of Biscay, and related to hydrographic and nutrient conditions, phytoplankton biomass and C incorporation. Microbial O2 fluxes exhibited seasonal patterns linked to the seasonal cycle of water column stratification and mixing, with positive NCP during the spring, negative throughout the summer and close to zero in winter. This pattern was altered at coastal regions, where productive periods were linked to coastal upwelling, whereas in winter persistent net heterotrophy was measured, presumably in relation to increases in organic matter discharge of continental origin. The comparison of NCP with O2 anomaly and NO3 concentration in the euphotic zone, the spatial and temporal scales studied and the prevalence of steady-state conditions offshore support the conclusion that the maintenance of summer heterotrophy in the region was based upon the consumption of the surplus of organic matter produced in spring. The uncoupling in the microbial auto- and heterotrophic metabolisms, based on the accumulation and delayed consumption of dissolved organic matter as a consequence of the processes controlling phytoplankton growth and microbial heterotrophic activity in temperate seas, would explain such a pattern. The close relationship observed between the seasonal variability in NCP and the magnitude of spring net production and predictions derived from the seasonal cycles of O2 anomaly in middle latitudes and atmospheric O2 led us to conclude that the seasonal compensation of production and respiration processes is a characteristic of the dynamics of the pelagic ecosystem, at least in coastal temperate seas. The implications of this conclusion are of great relevance for the interpretation of new production and the estimation of the trophic status of the ocean from direct measurements of plankton net production.


KEY WORDS: Production-respiration balance · Trophic dynamics · Phytoplankton · Bacteria · Oxygen anomaly · Atmospheric oxygen


Full text in pdf format