Bacteria-algae associations in the sea ice and upper water column of the Ross Sea in late austral summer
Stewart, Frank J.
Fritsen, Christian H.
Garrison, David L.
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The ecological role of heterotrophic bacteria in the microbial food web of the Southern Ocean is unresolved. A coupling between phytoplankton and bacterial production is well documented in mid-to low-latitude oceans (e.g., Bird and Kalff 1984; Cole, Findlay and Pace1988) and is thought to result from the heterotrophic uptake of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) released by the primary producers (i.e. the "microbial loop;" Pomeroy 1974; Bjørnsen 1988). In Antarctic waters, however, the extent to which bacteria rely on phytoplankton production, and consequently contribute to total ecosystem production, is disputed. A positive correlation between algal and bacterial biomass has been observed in regions of the Southern Ocean (e.g., Cota et al. 1990; Lochte et al. 1997). Conversely, variability in the strength of this correlation, and even an uncoupling of algae and bacteria, has also been documented (e.g. Cota et al. 1990; Bird and Karl 1999). Accurate characterization of the microbial loop in the Southern Ocean requires quantification of algal and bacterial biomass and activity over a seasonal time scale and in the diversity of marine habitats that surround Antarctica. This necessitates that bacteria-algae associations in the pelagic environment should not be studied apart from similar associations in the sea ice that is a prominent feature of most antarctic waters.