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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 37:9-22 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/ame037009

Degradation of riverine dissolved organic matter by seawater bacteria

Emma J. Rochelle-Newall1,3,*, Marie-Dominique Pizay1, Jack J. Middelburg2, Henricus T. S. Boschker2, Jean-Pierre Gattuso1

1Observatoire Océanologique, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, CNRS-UPMC, 06234 Villefranche-sur-Mer Cedex, France
2Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), PO Box 140, 4400AC, Yerseke, The Netherlands
3Present address: Centre IRD Noumea, BP A5, Noumea, New Caledonia

ABSTRACT: The functional response of a seawater bacterial community transplanted into freshwater dissolved organic matter (DOM) was investigated together with the response of natural populations of bacteria to size-fractioned natural source water. Seawater bacteria were incubated over a period of 8 d in size-fractionated, freshwater DOM collected from Randers Fjord, Denmark, during spring (April) and summer (August) of 2001. Three fractions were used: 0.2 µm filtered (<0.2 µm-DOM), >1 kDa (high molecular weight, HMW-DOM) and <1 kDa (low molecular weight, LMW-DOM). The results were compared with parallel control incubations of freshwater bacteria in size-fractionated freshwater DOM and seawater bacteria in size-fractionated seawater DOM. There were few differences in bacterial abundance (BA) and production (BP) within each incubation type in spring, but this was not the case in summer. While the seawater bacteria transplanted into freshwater HMW-DOM performed similarly to those in seawater HMW-DOM, freshwater bacteria in freshwater HMW-DOM exhibited higher BA, BP and bacterial respiration (BR), indicating a difference in the physiological abilities of the seawater bacterial assemblage compared to that of the natural freshwater assemblage. Bacterial growth efficiency (BGE) varied between 11 and 41% and the highest values were generally in the HMW-DOM size fraction. Comparison of the ‘bioavailability’ of the DOM predicted from BGE, the amino acid degradation index (DI), dissolved organic carbon degradation rates and the bioavailability index showed that net change in DI of dissolved combined amino acids over the course of an incubation can be a good predictor of most of the other indices. The separation of DOM into molecular weight size fractions resulted in different estimates of bioavailability than would have been predicted from the rates observed in the <0.2 µm-DOM fraction. These results further demonstrate the flexibility of bacteria in their ability to utilize different sources of DOM, and highlight the variability that can be observed when different indices are used to determine the bioavailability of organic matter to heterotrophic bacteria.

KEY WORDS: Bacterial growth efficiency · BGE · HMW · LMW · DOM · Randers Fjord Estuary · Amino acids · Degradation Index · DI

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