Bacteria, Protozoa and Organic Matter Composition in the Sediments of Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea)

  • M. Fabiano
  • R. Danovaro
  • M. Chiantore
  • A. Pusceddu


Spatial distributions of bacterial and protozoan abundance and biomass were investigated in the sediments of Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea) at depths ranging from 36 to 223m, during January-February 1994. Microbial parameters were compared to the distribution of several food indicators (such as phytopigments, lipids, proteins, total and soluble carbohydrates) in order to provide quantitative information about the different components of the benthic microbial loop and identify which factors are responsible for microbial distribution. As suggested by the high content of chloroplastic pigment equivalents (on average 29.0 µg g-1 dry wt), proteins (1.9 mg g-1 dry wt) and carbohydrates (5.3 mg g-1 dry wt), the sediments of Terra Nova Bay were characterized by large amounts of deposited primary organic material. These values are among the highest reported for coastal sediments. Sediment organic matter was mostly composed of labile compounds and 98% of the total carbohydrate content was composed of soluble carbohydrates. Benthic bacterial densities were 1 to 2 orders of magnitude lower than those previously reported in Antarctic sediments or at temperate latitudes (on average 1.7 × 107 cells g-1 dry wt). By contrast, microprotozoa showed high densities (on average 873 × 103 cells g-1) and accounted for 11% of the total microbial biomass. Such high protozoan densities are comparable to those reported for highly productive systems. Bacteria and protozoa were significantly correlated with phytopigment and protein concentrations indicating a response to the organic matter accumulation. Protozoan density was significantly correlated to bacterial number and biomass. Microbial communities in Terra Nova Bay sediments appeared to be mainly bottom-up controlled (i.e. dependent upon food source and substrate availability). However, the close relationship between protozoa and labile compounds and the high protozoan to bacterial biomass ratio stress the relevance of benthic protozoa that may represent, in coastal Antarctic sediments, the main vector for the direct transfer of detrital carbon and bacterial biomass to metazoan food web.


Soluble Carbohydrate Organic Input Heterotrophic Flagellate Labile Compound Organic Matter Composition 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alongi DM (1987) The distribution and composition of deep-sea microbenthos in a bathyal region of the western Coral Sea. Deep Sea Res 34: 1245–1254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bak RPM, Nieuwland G (1989) Seasonal fluctuations in benthic protozoan populations at different depths in marine sediments. Neth J Sea Res 24: 37–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bak RPM, Van Duyl FC, Nieuwland G (1995) Organic matter and macrofauna as forcing factors in marine benthic nanoflagellates communities. Microb Ecol 29: 173–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bligh EG, Dyer W (1959) A rapid method for total lipid extraction and purification. Can J Biochem Physiol 37: 911–917PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borsheim KY, Bratbak G (1987) Cell volume to cell carbon conversion factors for a bacterivorous Monas sp. enriched from seawater. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 36: 171–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cunningham JR, Ustach JF (1992) Protozoan number and biomass in the sediments of the Blake Outer Ridge. Deep Sea Res 39: 789–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Danovaro R (1996) Detritus-bacteria-meiofauna interactions in a seagrass bed (Posidonia oceanica) of the NW Mediterranean. Mar Biol 127: 1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Danovaro R, Fabiano M (1995) Seasonal and inter-annual variation of bacteria in a seagrass bed of the Mediterranean Sea: relationship with labile organic compounds and other environmental factors. Aquat Microb Ecol 9: 17–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Danovaro R, Fabiano M, Delia Croce N (1993) Labile organic matter and microbial biomasses in deep-sea sediments (Eastern Mediterranean Sea). Deep Sea Res 40: 953–965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Danovaro R, Fabiano M, Boyer M (1994) Seasonal changes of benthic bacteria in a seagrass bed (Posidonia oceanica) of the Ligurian Sea in relation to origin composition and fate of the sediment organic matter. Mar Biol 119: 489–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Danovaro R, Delia Croce N, Marrale D (1996) Microbial dynamics in continental and deep-sea sediments of the Cretan Sea (eastern Mediterranean). In: Tselepides A, Papadopoulou K-N, Polychronaki T (eds) CINCS: Pelagic-benthic coupling the oligotrophic Cretan Sea, MAST-11 Mediterranean Targeted Project. IMBC, Crete, Greece, pp 135–153Google Scholar
  12. Delille D, Bouvy M (1989) Bacterial response to natural organic inputs in a marine sub-Antarctic area. Hydrobiologia 182: 225–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delille D, Guidi LD, Cahet G (1990) Temporal variations of benthic bacterial microflora on the North Western Mediterranean continental shelf and slope. PSZNI: Mar Ecol 40: 953–965Google Scholar
  14. Deming JW, Barross JA (1993) The early diagenesis of organic matter: bacterial activity. In: Engel M, Macko S (eds) Organic geochemistry. 6. Topics in geobiology. Plenum Press, New York, pp 119–144Google Scholar
  15. Deming JW, Yager PL (1992) Natural bacterial assemblages in deep-sea sediments: towards a global view. In: Rowe GT, Pariente V (eds) Deep-sea food chains and the global carbon cycle. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, pp 11–28Google Scholar
  16. Epstein SS, Burkovsky IV, Shiaris MP (1992) Ciliate grazing on bacteria, flagellates and microalgae in a temperate zone sandy tidal flat: ingestion rates and food niche partitioning. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 165: 103–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fabiano M, Danovaro R (1994) Composition of organic matter in sediment facing a river estuary (Tyrrhenian Sea): relationship with bacteria and microphytobenthic biomass. Hydrobiologia 277: 71–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fabiano M, Danovaro R, Fraschetti S (1995) A 3-year series of elemental and biochemical composition of organic matter in subtidal sandy sediments of the Ligurian Sea (northwestern Mediterranean). Cont Shelf Res 15: 1453–1469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fabiano M, Chiantore M, Povero P, Cattaneo-Vietti R, Pusceddu A, Misic C, Albertelli G (1997) Short-term variation in particulate matter flux in Terra Nova Bay, Ross sea. Antarctic Sci 9 (2): 143–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fallon RDS, Newell SY, Hopkinson CJ (1983) Bacterial production in marine sediments: will cell-specific measures agree with whole system metabolism? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 10: 265–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fenchel T (1982a) Ecology of heterotrophic microflagellates. I. Some important forms and their functional morphology. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 8: 211–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fenchel T (1982b) Ecology of heterotrophic microflagellates. II. Bioenergetics and growth. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 8: 225–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fry JC (1990) Direct methods and biomass estimation. Methods Microbiol 22: 41–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gerchacov SM, Hatcher PG (1972) Improved technique for analysis of carbohydrates in sediments. Limnol Oceanogr 17: 938–943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hartree EF (1972) Determination of proteins: a modification of the Lowry method that gives a linear photometric response. Anal Biochem 48: 422–427PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hondeveld BJM, Bak RPM, Van Duyl FC (1992) Bacterivory by heterotrophic nanoflagellates in marine sediments measured by uptake of fluorescently labeled bacteria. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 89: 63–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hondeveld BJM, Nieuwland G, Van Duyl FC, Bak RPM (1994) Temporal and spatial variations in heterotrophic nanoflagellate abundance in North Sea sediments. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 109: 235–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kemp PF (1988) Bacterivory by benthic ciliates: significance as a carbon source and impact on sediment bacteria. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 49: 163–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kemp PF (1994) Microbial carbon utilization on the continental shelf and slope during the SEEP-II experiment. Deep Sea Res 41: 563–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Khripounoff A, Crassus P, Desbruyeres D, Le Cox JR (1985) Le flux organique particulaire et ses transformations à l’interface eau-sédiment. In: Laubier L, Monniot C (eds) Peuplement profond du Golf de Gascogne. IFREMER, Brest, pp 101–108Google Scholar
  31. Knox GA (1994) The biology of the Southern Ocean, Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Lochte K (1994) Microbiological investigations in deep-sea sediments of the Weddel Sea, Antarctica. 7th Deep-Sea Biology Symp, Abstr, Heraklion, Crete, GreeceGoogle Scholar
  33. Lorenzen C, Jeffrey J (1980) Determination of chlorophyll in seawater. UNESCO Tech Papers Mar Sci 35: 1–20Google Scholar
  34. Marsh JB, Weinstein WJ (1966) A simple charring method for determination of lipids. J Lipid Res 7: 574–576PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Meyer-Reil LA (1983) Benthic response to sedimentation events in western Kiel Bight. II. Analysis of benthic bacterial populations. Mar Biol 77: 247–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pfannkuche O (1993) Benthic response to sedimentation of particulate matter at the BIOTRANS station, 47°N, 20°W. Deep Sea Res 40: 135–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Piante R, Plante-Cuny MR, Reys JP (1986) Photosynthetic pigments of sandy sediments on the north Mediterranean coast: their spatial distribution and its effect on sampling strategies. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 34: 133–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pusceddu A (1997) Origine, composizione biochimica e destino della sostanza organica in ambienti marini a differente livello di trofismo. PhD Dissertation, University of Genova, 173 ppGoogle Scholar
  39. Rice DL (1982) The detritus nitrogen problem: new observations and perspectives from organic geochemistry. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 9: 153–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sargent JR, Hopkins CCE, Siering JV, Youngson A (1983) Partial characterization of organic material in surface sediments from the Balsfjorden, northern Norway, in relation to its origin and nutritional value for sedimentingesting animals. Mar Biol 76: 87–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sherr BF, Sherr EB (1983a) Enumeration of heterotrophic microprotozoa by epifluorescence microscopy. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 16: 1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sherr BF, Sherr EB (1983b) Double-staining epifluorescence technique to assess frequency of dividing cells and bacterivory in natural populations of heterotrophic microprotozoa. Appl Environ Microbiol 46: 1388–1393PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Sherr BF, Sherr EB (1991) Planktonic microbes: tiny cells at the base of the ocean’s food webs. Tree 6: 50–54PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Smith GA, Davis JD, Muscat AM, Moe AM, White DC (1989) Lipid composition and metabolic activities of benthic near-shore microbial communities of Arthur Harbor, Antarctic Peninsula: comparisons with McMurdo Sound. Polar Biol 9: 517–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tanoue E, Handa N (1987) Monosaccharide composition of marine particles and sediments from the Bering Sea and North Pacific. Oceanol Acta 10: 91–99Google Scholar
  46. White DC, Smith GA, Nichols PD, Stanton GR, Palmisano AC (1985) The lipid composition and microbial activity of selected recent Antarctic benthic marine sediments and organisms: a mechanism for monitoring and comparing microbial populations. Antarct J US 19: 130–132Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Fabiano
    • 1
  • R. Danovaro
    • 2
    • 3
  • M. Chiantore
    • 1
  • A. Pusceddu
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento per lo Studio del Territorio e delle sue RiserseUniversità di GenovaItaly
  2. 2.Facoltà di ScienzeUniversità di AnconaItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di ZoologiaUniversità di BariItaly

Personalised recommendations