Bacterial utilisation of organic matter in the deep sea

Abstract

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.

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