Microbial Ecology

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 353–366 | Cite as

Effects of Dissolved and Complexed Copper on Heterotrophic Bacterial Production in San Diego Bay

  • Thomas J. BoydEmail author
  • David M. Wolgast
  • Ignacio Rivera-Duarte
  • Osmund Holm-Hansen
  • Christopher D. Hewes
  • Alberto Zirino
  • D. Bart Chadwick


Bacterial abundance and production, free (uncomplexed) copper ion concentration, total dissolved copper concentration, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total suspended solids (TSS), and chlorophyll a were measured over the course of 1 year in a series of 27 sample “Boxes” established within San Diego Bay. Water was collected through a trace metal-clean system so that each Box’s sample was a composite of all the surface water in that Box. Bacterial production, chlorophyll a, TSS, DOC, and dissolved copper all generally increased from Box 1 at the mouth of the Bay to Box 27 in the South or back Bay. Free copper ion concentration generally decreased from Box 1 to Box 27 presumably due to increasing complexation capacity within natural waters. Based on correlations between TSS, chlorophyll a, bacterial production or DOC and the ratio of dissolved to free Cu ion, both DOC and particulate (bacteria and algae) fractions were potentially responsible for copper complexation, each at different times of the year. CuCl2 was added to bacterial production assays from 0 to 10 μg L−1 to assess acute copper toxicity to the natural microbial assemblage. Interestingly, copper toxicity appeared to increase with decreases in free copper from the mouth of the Bay to the back Bay. This contrasts the free-ion activity model in which higher complexation capacity should afford greater copper protection. When cell-specific growth rates were calculated, faster growing bacteria (i.e. toward the back Bay) appeared to be more susceptible to free copper toxicity. The protecting effect of natural dissolved organic material (DOM) concentrated by tangential flow ultrafiltration (>1 kDa), illite and kaolinite minerals, and glutathione (a metal chelator excreted by algae under copper stress) was assessed in bacterial production assays. Only DOM concentrate offered any significant protection to bacterial production under increased copper concentrations. Although the potential copper protecting agents were allowed to interact with added copper before natural bacteria were added to production assays, there may be a temporal dose–response relationship that accounts for higher toxicity in short production assays. Regardless, it appears that effective natural complexation of copper in the back portions of San Diego Bay limits exposure of native bacterial assemblages to free copper ion, resulting in higher bacterial production.


Total Suspended Solid Natural Organic Matter Bacterial Production Copper Toxicity Free Copper 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) under project CP-1156. The opinions and assertions contained herein are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the U.S. Navy or the naval service at large. The authors wish to thank the captain and crew of the R/V Ecos for sample collection logistics and Dr. Joanne Jones-Meehan for critical review of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Boyd
    • 1
    Email author
  • David M. Wolgast
    • 2
  • Ignacio Rivera-Duarte
    • 3
  • Osmund Holm-Hansen
    • 4
  • Christopher D. Hewes
    • 4
  • Alberto Zirino
    • 3
    • 4
  • D. Bart Chadwick
    • 3
  1. 1.Code 6114, MBGUS Naval Research LaboratoryWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Scripps Institution of OceanographyLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Marine Environmental Quality Branch D362SPAWAR System Center San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  4. 4.Scripps Institution of Oceanography, MBRDLa JollaUSA

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