Bacterial utilisation of organic matter in the deep sea


DISSOLVED organic carbon (DOC) in the deep sea is, after sedimentary humus, the largest reservoir of organic carbon in the hydrosphere. It is utilised primarily by heterotrophic bacteria, which over a long period, in steady–state conditions consume dissolved O2 from the seawater and produce an equivalent amount of CO2 by respiration. Knowledge of the rates of O2 consumption (Table 1) and CO2 production is useful for quantifying the mixing and circulation of deep-sea water through variations in its O2 or natural radiocarbon content1,2. The aim of the work reported here was to determine the growth rate of a heterotrophic, low nutrient bacterium isolated from seawater collected at a depth of 2,000 m in the north-central Pacific Ocean (25°03′N, 154°53′W), and to equate this growth rate with O2 consumption and utilisation of DOC.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Munk, W. H., Deep-Sea Res., 13, 707–730 (1966).

  2. 2

    Craig, H., J. geophys. Res., 76, 5078–5086 (1971).

  3. 3

    Jannasch, H. W., Eimhjellen, K., Wirsen, C. O., and Farmanfarmaian, A., Science, 171, 672–675 (1971).

  4. 4

    Sorokin, Y. I., in Proc. twentieth Nobel Symp. (edit by Dryssen, D., and Tagner, D.), (Wiley–Interscience, New York and London, 1972).

  5. 5

    Packard, T. T., Healy, M. L., and Richards, F. Q., Limnol. Oceanogr., 16, 60–70 (1971).

  6. 6

    Holm-Hansen, O., and Paerl, H. W., Mem. Ist. Ital. Idrobiol., 29, Suppl., 149–168 (1972).

  7. 7

    Taga, N., and Matsuda, O., in Effect of the Ocean Environment on Microbial Activities (edit. by Colwell, R., and Morita, R.), (University Park Press, Baltimore, London and Tokyo, 1974).

  8. 8

    Gordon, D. C., Deep-Sea Res., 18, 1127–2234 (1971).

  9. 9

    Prelim. Data Rep. Geochemical Ocean Sections Study, Pacific Expedition, Leg I, Station 206, August–September, 1973 (Scripps Inst. Oceanogr., San Diego, 1974).

  10. 10

    Williams, P. M., Ocschger, H., and Kinney, P. J., Nature, 224, 256–258 (1969).

  11. 11

    Arhelger, M. E., Kinney, P. J., Linick, T. W., and Williams, P. M., Research on the Marine Food Chain, AEC Progress Report, 363–389 (University of California, San Diego, 1974).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.