, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 144-154

Coupling Between Rates of Bacterial Production and the Abundance of Metabolically Active Bacteria in Lakes, Enumerated Using CTC Reduction and Flow Cytometry

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In natural bacterioplankton assemblages, only a fraction of the total cell count is active, and, therefore, rates of bacterial production should be more strongly correlated to the number of active cells than to the total number of bacteria. However, this hypothesis has seldom been tested. Herein we explore the relationship between rates of bacterial production (measured as leucine uptake) and the number of active bacteria in 14 lakes in southern Québec. Active bacteria are defined as those cells capable of reducing the tetrazolium salt CTC to its fluorescent formazan; these cells were enumerated using flow cytometry. Bacterial production varied two orders of magnitude in the lakes studied, as did the number of active bacteria, whereas the total number of bacteria varied by only sixfold. The number and proportion of active bacteria were similar among lake strata, but rates of bacterial production were highest in the epilimnion and lowest in the hypolimnion. As expected, bacterial production was better correlated to the number of active cells, and bacterial growth rates calculated for active cells ranged from 0.7 to 1.8 day−1, on average threefold higher than those calculated on the basis of total bacterial abundance. Growth rates scaled to active cells were, on average, similar among lake strata and did not show any pattern along a gradient of increasing chlorophyll concentration, so there was no systematic change of bacterial growth rates with lake productivity. In contrast, growth rates scaled to the entire bacterial assemblage were positively correlated to chlorophyll, were tenfold more variable among lakes than growth rates of active cells, and showed larger differences among lake strata. Scaling bacterial production to either the total number or the number of active cells thus results in very different patterns in bacterial growth rates among aquatic systems.

Received: 12 July 1996; Accepted: 24 September 1996