Limitation of bacterial growth by dissolved organic matter and iron in the Southern Ocean

Matthew J. Church, David A. Hutchins, Hugh W. Ducklow

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190 Scopus citations


The importance of resource limitation in controlling bacterial growth in the high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll (HNLC) region of the Southern Ocean was experimentally determined during February and March 1998. Organic- and inorganic-nutrient enrichment experiments were performed between 42°S and 55°S along 141°E. Bacterial abundance, mean cell volume, and [3H]thymidine and [3H]leucine incorporation were measured during 4- to 5-day incubations. Bacterial biomass, production, and rates of growth all responded to organic enrichments in three of the four experiments. These results indicate that bacterial growth was constrained primarily by the availability of dissolved organic matter. Bacterial growth in the subtropical front, subantarctic zone, and subantarctic front responded most favorably to additions of dissolved free amino acids or glucose plus ammonium. Bacterial growth in these regions may be limited by input of both organic matter and reduced nitrogen. Unlike similar experimental results in other HNLC regions (subarctic and equatorial Pacific), growth stimulation of bacteria in the Southern Ocean resulted in significant biomass accumulation, apparently by stimulating bacterial growth in excess of removal processes. Bacterial growth was relatively unchanged by additions of iron alone; however, additions of glucose plus iron resulted in substantial increases in rates of bacterial growth and biomass accumulation. These results imply that bacterial growth efficiency and nitrogen utilization may be partly constrained by iron availability in the HNLC Southern Ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-466
Number of pages12
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2000


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