Oceanic Bacterial Production

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Abstract

There has been an explosion of research on marine microbial foodweb processes in the past decade. Today it is widely accepted that about 50% of the primary production in marine and fresh water is processed by bacteria each day (Williams, 1981; Cole et al., 1988). This striking finding was stimulated, as others have noted, by the introduction of convenient methods for the estimation of microbial biomass and activities in natural waters. Hobbie et al. (1977) and Watson et al. (1977) demonstrated conclusively that bacterial populations in the sea were large. By 1980, in addition to the pioneering and prescient work by Sorokin (e.g., Sorokin, 1971, 1973), reports of bacterial production measurements had begun to emerge (Sieburth et al., 1977; Karl, 1979; Larsson and Hagstrom, 1979; Fuhrman and Azam, 1980). Brock (1971) and Sieburth (1977) wrote early reviews on the subject, and Pomeroy (1974) introduced the importance of marine microbial processes to a large audience. In this chapter we review recent research on bacterial production in the ocean. The emphasis is on the open sea, but we will also discuss other marine habitats, partly because there are still few comprehensive studies of oceanic bacterial production. There is an equally large and rapidly growing literature on bacterial production in fresh waters (Cole et al., 1988; Currie, 1990) which deserves a review of its own, as well as comparison with the marine findings (Hobbie, 1988). We will not review related work in sediments, nor for the most part, related work on bacteriovores.