Detritus-Microbe Interactions in the Marine Pelagic Environment: Selected Results from the Vertex Experiment
Collections of sinking particulate matter were made using a free-floating sediment trap array deployed at three stations in the north Pacific Ocean as part of the Vertical Transport and Exchange (VERTEX) research program. Each experiment consisted of at least 120 individual sediment traps positioned at 10–12 depths in the mesopelagic zone (100–2,000 m). Our primary objectives were: (1) to obtain information on the magnitude and patterns of the downward vertical flux of selected elements and biochemicals, (2) to evaluate the relationships between microbial biomass and the rates of decomposition of sedimenting organic matter and (3) to measure the metabolic activity of microorganisms associated with particulate detritus. A combination of in situ extraction/preservation techniques (using sediment traps precharged with appropriate chemicals) and unpreserved traps (some precharged with specific growth substrates or radioisotopic tracers) enabled us to evaluate in situ detritus-microbe interactions. Our results indicate the presence of isolated regions of microbial productivity (i.e., “hotspots”) with effects large enough to produce a positive rate of change in the downward flux of total organic matter (i.e., an increased flux of organic matter with increasing water depth). It is proposed that this in situ carbon production is the result of chemolithotrophic bacterial activity (i.e., production of organic matter from CO2) supported by the transport of allochthonous energy in the form of reduced endproducts of anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. A detritus-microbe interaction model is presented and discussed within the context of existing VERTEX data.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1984-11-01
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