Ecology of Phototrophic Sulfur Bacteria

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Phototrophic sulfur bacteria often form mass developments in aquatic environments, either planktonic or benthic, where anoxic layers containing reduced sulfur compounds are exposed to light. This chapter summarizes a number of reports from the literature, collecting the information on the abundance of these bacteria as well as on their contribution to primary production. From the point of view of population dynamics, the abundance of these organisms is the consequence of a certain balance between growth and losses. Both specific growth rates, and specific rates of loss through several processes are analyzed in several environments, in an attempt to generalize on the growth status of blooms of phototrophic sulfur bacteria. The information available indicates the existence of an upper limit for the production of these bacteria in nature, and seems to suggest the existence of an upper limit for biomass based in the balance between growth and losses.

The chapter also reviews the main variables affecting growth of phototrophic sulfur bacteria in nature, paying attention both to the in situ status of these variables and to the functional response of the organisms to each of them. All of this information is integrated in a section in which several case-studies are described, and which emphasizes the role fluctuations play on competition and coexistence between different phototrophic sulfur bacteria.