Bacterial growth and the decomposition of particulate organic carbon collected in sediment traps Academic Article uri icon


  • We have studied bacterial abundance and production in samples from sediment traps deployed for 1 and 100 days in several areas of the shelf and slope regions of the Middle Atlantic Bight, U.S.A. By making a series of assumptions about bacterial growth at the expense of POC in traps, we have estimated that the turnover time of organic particles collected in traps during long deployments is slow (mean 1500 ± 300 days), if only bacterial activity is considered. However the abundance and biomass of bacteria in traps is very high, ranging from 3 to 30 × 1011 cells gC-1, i.e., 0.3 to 3% of the POC is bacterial carbon. Fifteen to 88% of the particles in traps were colonized by bacteria, but usually about half the particles had only 0 to 1 cell attached. Growth of bacteria was observed at all scales relevant to these trap deployments; over periods ranging from hours to weeks, at rates of 0.01 to 0.3 d-1. In spite of slow growth, bacteria appeared to be physiologically active in that [3H]adenine and [3H]thymidine were incorporated more rapidly into RNA and protein than into DNA. Total incorporation rates were high. We conclude that even relatively old (ca. 1 y) POC in sediment traps supports high levels of active bacterial biomass, but that POC decomposition is slow, so that bacteria may not be the principal agents of POC turnover following collection. © 1985.

published proceedings

  • Continental Shelf Research

citation count

  • 46

complete list of authors

  • Ducklow, Hugh W||Hill, Suzanne M||Gardner, Wilford D

publication date

  • January 1985