Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Limnology and Oceanography
A recently published evaluation of bacterioplankton abundance and productivity in the bathypelagic North Pacific suggests that these properties are generally coupled with particulate organic carbon (POC) fluxes. In that analysis, bacterial biomass and productivity were several-fold greater in subarctic than subtropical waters, consistent with the basin-scale distribution of POC flux and suggestive of a sinking POC --> DOC --> bacteria transformation of the carbon. To test this hypothesis, we sought to determine whether the very strong spatial and temporal gradients in POC flux in the Arabian Sea would force similar deep-ocean gradients in bacterial variables. On both a within and between-cruise basis, there was variability in bacterial abundance and thymidine incorporation in the deep Arabian Sea, but correspondence was equivocal between these variables and several correlates to export: flux of biogenic carbon from the euphoric zone, state of the monsoon, and proximity to productive coastal upwelling zones. However, when annual mean bacterial abundance at 2,000 m was compared with annual POC flux at that depth, a strong correspondence emerged: high annual flux supported high bacterial abundance (such a correspondence was not found for bacterial productivity). This finding suggests that bathypelagic bacterial abundance responds to the long-term mean input of organic matter and less to episodic inputs. A comparative evaluation of the North Pacific revealed that although the bathypelagic bacteria there showed correspondence to deep POC flux, that variable alone would not account for the wide meridional variations in bacterial abundance that have been reported.
Hansell, DA and Ducklow, HW, Bacterioplankton distribution and production in the bathypelagic ocean: Directly coupled to particulate organic carbon export? (2003). Limnology and Oceanography, 48(1), 150-156.