, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 37–55 | Cite as

Bacterial abundance and production in river sediments as related to the biochemical composition of particulate organic matter (POM)

  • Helmut Fischer
  • Susanne C. Wanner
  • Martin Pusch


The major proportion of heterotrophic activity in running waters islocalized on the solid surfaces of sediments in the benthic and hyporheic zoneand is dominated by microorganisms. However, this assertion is based on thestudies of small streams, and little is known about the microbial metabolism oforganic matter in river ecosystems. We therefore explored the relationshipsbetween bacterial abundance and production and the gradients of organic matterquality and quantity in sediments of a sixth-order lowland river (Spree,Germany). We found vertical gradients of detrital variables (particulateorganicmatter (POM), particulate organic carbon (POC), nitrogen (PN), and protein) andof bacterial variables (abundance, production, turnover time, and proportion ofbacterial carbon in total POC) in two different sediment types. These gradientswere steeper in stratified sediments than in the shifting sediments. Detritalvariables correlated strongly with bacterial abundance and production. The bestcorrelation was found for detrital variables indicating substrate quantity andquality (rS = 0.90 for PN with abundance). Although bacterialbiomasscomprised only 0.7% of the POC (1.9% of PN, 3.4% of the protein) in sediments,the turnover of sedimentary organic carbon was fast (median = 62d), especially in the shifting sediments. Our findings demonstratethat sediment dynamics significantly foster organic carbon metabolism in riversystems. Thus, these sediments, which are typical for lowland rivers, stronglyinfluence the metabolism of the whole ecosystem.

Bacterial production C/N ratio Particulate organic matter (POM) Protein River Sediments 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helmut Fischer
    • 1
  • Susanne C. Wanner
    • 1
  • Martin Pusch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Limnology of Lowland Rivers and Shallow LakesInstitute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany

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