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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 58:167-179 (2010)  -  DOI:

Bacterial production and respiration in subtropical Hong Kong waters: influence of the Pearl River discharge and sewage effluent

Xiangcheng Yuan1,2, Kedong Yin2,3,*, Paul J. Harrison1, Wei-Jun Cai4, Lei He2, Jie Xu1

1Atmospheric, Marine and Coastal Environment (AMCE) Program, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
2Key Laboratory of Tropical Marine Environmental Dynamics, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, PR China
3Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University (Nathan Campus), Brisbane, Queensland 4111, Australia
4Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Hong Kong waters are influenced by the Pearl River discharge in the west, coastal/ oceanic waters in the east, and year-round domestic sewage effluent in the Victoria Harbour area. Seven cruises were conducted at 12 stations across the Hong Kong water in the dry and wet seasons to examine how the Pearl River outflow and sewage effluent discharge influenced the distributions of dissolved oxygen (DO), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), bacterial production (BP) and bacterial respiration (BR). Surface DO saturation was usually ~80%, and surface partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) averaged ~570 µatm at all 12 stations. The undersaturated DO and supersaturated pCO2 indicated that Hong Kong waters were heterotrophic and a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere, except during periods of phytoplankton blooms when pCO2 became very low (<200 µatm). The Pearl River discharge in the wet season decreased DO and increased pCO2 and BP in the estuarine-influenced waters in comparison with the coastal/oceanic waters. Sewage effluent exerted a strong influence on carbon dynamics and CO2 efflux as surface pCO2 was significantly correlated with NH4, an indicator of sewage effluent. BR in Hong Kong waters was ~100 to 400 mmol C m–2 d–1 in July and November 2005. The BR fraction accounted for 50 to 80% of total dark community respiration (DCR) in coastal/oceanic waters with less eutrophic inputs, but increased to >90% of DCR in more eutrophic waters near the sewage discharge site, likely due to the decrease in phytoplankton biomass. Contribution of BR to the CO2 efflux was ~3 to 10 mmol C m–2 d–1, which was ~50% (varied from 16 to 130%) of the total CO2 efflux. This study has important implications for severely anthropogenically impacted coastal areas, as they may be an important source of atmospheric CO2 due to active BR.

KEY WORDS:Bacterial production · Bacterial respiration · CO2 · Sewage effluent · Pearl River estuary

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Cite this article as: Yuan X, Yin K, Harrison PJ, Cai W, He L, Xu J (2010) Bacterial production and respiration in subtropical Hong Kong waters: influence of the Pearl River discharge and sewage effluent. Aquat Microb Ecol 58:167-179.

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