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Free Content Composition and degradation of salp fecal pellets: Implications for vertical flux in oceanic environments

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Changes in the sinking rates, ash-free dry weights, particulate carbon and nitrogen content, and carbon:nitrogen ratios from the fecal pellets of several species of oceanic salps were examined in ten-day decomposition studies. Although bacteria and protozoa became abundant in the incubation vessels, most of the fecal pellets remained physically intact throughout the study. Bacterial activity in the pellets (measured by the rate of uptake of 3H-thymidine) increased, but microbial degradation had little effect on the sinking speeds of most of the fecal pellets. The average losses of ash-free dry weight and carbon and nitrogen content, along with changes in carbon:nitrogen ratio, were small compared to their initial values. We conclude that microbial degradation of large salp fecal pellets would not prevent the vertical flux to the deep ocean of a significant fraction of the particulate organic material contained in the pellets. The fecal pellets of oceanic salps provide a rapid, and potentially important, mechanism for the consolidation and vertical transport of organic and lithogenic material associated with minute particles in the open ocean.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1989

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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