DOC cycling in a temperate estuary: A mass balance approach using natural C-14 and C-13 isotopes
A simple steady-state model is used to examine the microbial loop as a pathway for organic C in marine systems, constrained by observed estimates of bacterial to primary production ratio (BP:PP) and bacterial growth efficiency (BGE). Carbon sources (primary production including extracellular release of dissolved organic carbon, DOC), cycling via zooplankton grazing and viral lysis, and sinks (bacterial and zooplankton respiration) are represented. Model solutions indicate that, at least under near steady-state conditions, recent estimates of BP:PP of about 0.1 to 0.15 are consistent with reasonable scenarios of C cycling (low BGE and phytoplankton extracellular release) at open ocean sites such as the Sargasso Sea and subarctic North Pacific. The finding that bacteria are a major (50%) sink for primary production is shown to be consistent with the best estimates of BGE and dissolved organic matter (DOM) production by zooplankton and phytoplankton. Zooplankton-related processes are predicted to provide the greatest supply of DOC for bacterial consumption. The bacterial contribution to C flow in the microbial loop, via bacterivory and viral lysis, is generally low, as a consequence of low BGE. Both BP and BGE are hard to quantify accurately. By indicating acceptable combinations of parameter values for given BP:PP, the model provides a simple tool for examining the reliability of BP and BGE estimates.