, Volume 637, Issue 1, pp 19-31
Date: 12 Nov 2009

Bacterial production in the Lower Mississippi River: importance of suspended sediment and phytoplankton biomass

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Abstract

The roles and metabolic activity of heterotrophic bacteria, along with factors controlling their activity, are poorly known for large, turbid rivers. The aim of this study was to evaluate temporal patterns in heterotrophic bacterial production (BP) in the main channel of the Lower Mississippi River (LMR) in relation to several seasonally dynamic environmental factors. We hypothesized that whole-water BP would vary with levels of temperature, as well as phytoplankton biomass and suspended sediment concentration. Further, we hypothesized that bacteria attached to suspended sediment would comprise an important component of whole-water BP, their importance varying with sediment concentration. Measurements were made at three locations on the LMR for up to 29 months. Bacterial production in whole-water ranged over an order of magnitude between summer and winter, with little variation among sites. Peaks in whole-water BP were associated with periods of high suspended sediment concentrations in spring, and elevated phytoplankton biomass in summer. Attached BP was correlated with all the measures of sediment concentration, especially particulate phosphorus, and accounted for a large majority of water-column BP. After temperature, the only positive correlate of free-living cells was with phytoplankton biomass. Rates of BP in the LMR during summer were much higher than measurements made previously in the Mississippi River plume, similar to the Hudson River, but lower than in three large tributaries of the LMR. Determination of bacterial population dynamics is an essential step in analysis of the food web structure and biogeochemical processes of large rivers. This is the first study of heterotrophic bacterial production in the main channel of the LMR.

Handling editor: Luigi Naselli-Flores