Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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E. B. Sherr, B. F. Sherr, and K. Longnecker, Distribution of bacterial abundance and cell-specific nucleic acid content in the Northeast Pacific Ocean, Deep-Sea Research I, 2006, 53(4): 713-725.

We tested the idea that bacterial cells with high nucleic acid content (HNA cells) are the active component of marine bacterioplankton assemblages, while bacteria with low nucleic acid content (LNA cells) are inactive, with a large data set (>1700 discrete samples) based on flow cytometric analysis of bacterioplankton in the Northeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon and northern California, USA. Samples were collected in the upper 150 m of the water column from the coast to 250 km offshore during 14 cruises from March 2001 to September 2003. During this period, a wide range of trophic states was encountered, from dense diatom blooms (chlorophyll-a concentrations up to 43 μg l−1) at shelf stations during upwelling season (March–September) to lower chlorophyll-a concentrations (0.1–5 μg l−1) during winter (November–February) and at basin stations (>1700 m depth). We found only weakly positive relations of log total bacterial abundance to log chlorophyll-a concentration (as a proxy for availability of organic substrate), and of HNA bacteria as a fraction of total bacteria to log chlorophyll-a. Abundance of HNA and LNA bacteria co-varied positively in all regions, although HNA bacteria were more responsive to high phytoplankton biomass in shelf waters than in slope and basin waters. Since LNA cell abundance in general showed responses similar to those of HNA cell abundance to changes in phytoplankton biomass, our data do not support the hypothesis that HNA cells are the sole active component of marine bacterioplankton.

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