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Microbial spatial variability: an example from the Celtic Sea

Martin, A.P.; Zubkov, M.V.; Fasham, M.J.; Burkill, P.H.; Holland, R.J.. 2008 Microbial spatial variability: an example from the Celtic Sea. Progress in Oceanography, 76 (4). 443-465. 10.1016/j.pocean.2008.01.004

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Abstract/Summary

In July 2004, dominant populations of microbial ultraplankton (<5 μm), in the surface of the Celtic Sea (between UK and Eire), were repeatedly mapped using flow cytometry, at 1.5 km resolution over a region of diameter 100 km. The numerically dominant representatives of all basic functional types were enumerated including one group of phototrophic bacteria (Syn), two groups of phytoplankton (PP, NP), three groups of heterotrophic bacterioplankton (HB) and the regionally dominant group of heterotrophic protists (HP). The distributions of all organisms showed strong spatial variability with little relation to variability in physical fields such as salinity and temperature. Furthermore, there was little agreement between distributions of different organisms. The only linear correlation consistently explaining more than 50% of the variance between any pairing of the organism groups enumerated is between two different groups of HB. Specifically, no linear, or non-linear, relationship is found between any pairings of SYB, PP or HB groups with their protist predators HP. Looking for multiple dependencies, factor analysis reveals three groupings: Syn, PP and low nucleic acid content HB (LNA); high nucleic acid content HB (HNA); HP and NP. Even the manner in which the spatial variability of Syn, PP and HB abundance varies as a function of lengthscale (represented by a semivariogram) differs significantly from that for HP. In summary, although all microbial planktonic groups enumerated are present and numerically dominant throughout the region studied, at face value the relationships between them seem weak. Nevertheless, the behaviour of a simple, illustrative ecological model, with strongly interacting phototrophs and heterotrophs, with stochastic forcing, is shown to be consistent with the observed poor correlations and differences in how spatial variability varies with lengthscale. Thus, our study suggests that a comparison of microbial abundances alone may not discern strong underlying trophic interactions. Specific knowledge of these processes, in particular grazing, will be required to explain the causes of the observed microbial spatial variability and its resulting consequences for the functioning of the ecosystem.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.pocean.2008.01.004
ISSN: 1744-9561
Additional Keywords: Ecology; Plankton; Predator–prey interactions; Spatial variations; Celtic Sea
Date made live: 03 Apr 2008 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/150833

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