Marine Biology

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 199–206 | Cite as

Phytoplankton exudate release as an energy source for the growth of pelagic bacteria

  • U. Larsson
  • A. Hagström


The release of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from phytolankton during photosynthesis, and the utilization of this carbon by planktonic bacteria, was studied using 14CO2 and selective filtration. Natural sea water samples from a coastal area of the Northern Baltic Sea were incubated in the laboratory for detailed studies, and in situ for estimation of annual dynamics. In a laboratory incubation (at +1°C) the concentration of 14C-labelled dissolved organic carbon increased for about 2 h and then reached a steady state, representing about 0. 1% of the total DOC. Labelled organic carbon in the phytoplankton and bacterial fractions continued to increase almost linearly. The continuous increase in the bacterial fraction is thought to represent almost instantaneous utilization of the DOC released from the phytoplankton during photosynthesis. As an annual average, in 4 h in situ incubations, about 65% of the labelled organic carbon was found in the phytoplankton fraction (>3 μm), about 27% in the bacterial fraction (0.2 to 3 μm) and the remaining 8% as DOC (<0.2 μm). Large variations in these percentages were recorded. The measured annual primary production was 93 g C m-2 (March to December), and the estimated bacterial production due to phytoplankton exudates 29 g C m-2. This represents a release of DOC of about 45% of the corrected annual primary production of 110 g C m-2 (assuming a bacterial growth efficiency of 0.6).


Phytoplankton Photosynthesis Growth Efficiency Selective Filtration Laboratory Incubation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • U. Larsson
    • 1
    • 3
  • A. Hagström
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of StockholmStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Brackish Water Toxicology LaboratoryThe National Environmental Protection BoardNyköpingSweden
  3. 3.Askö LaboratoryTrosaSweden

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