Lagrangian study of microbial plankton respiration in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean: Bacterial contribution and short-term temporal variability

Eva Teira*, Sandra Martínez-García, Emilio Fernández, Alejandra Calvo-Díaz, Xose Anxelu G. Moran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In oligotrophic regions, in situ diel variability of many biological variables has been shown to be often larger than the variability observed over scales of days. However, the short-term temporal variability (scale of hours to days) of microbial plankton respiration has been poorly assessed in oligotrophic waters, due to methodological limitations of the standard oxygen consumption methods (e.g. incubation time ≥ 24 h). In order to avoid such constraints, we estimated bacterial and microbial plankton respiration from size-fractionated (<0.8 μm and total) in vivo electron transport system (ETS) activity measurements (incubation time 3 to 5.5 h). Temporal variability in both bacterial and total microbial plankton respiration was assessed during 2 Lagrangian studies lasting 8 d and conducted at the center and the eastern margin of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre in autumn 2006. In these studies, size-fractionated in vivo ETS activity was measured in the same parcel of water on 12 occasions at different times of the day. The contribution of bacteria to total microbial community respiration averaged 29 ± 20 (SD) % and was significantly higher in the upper mixed layer than at the base of the euphotic zone. Euphotic depth-integrated microbial community respiration showed high inter- and intra-day variability and was significantly higher in samples collected at night than during the day, despite constant biomass of bacteria, Prochlorococcus, eukaryotic picophytoplankton and total phytoplankton throughout both Lagrangian studies. Our results indicate that microbial community respiration estimates could be biased if short-term variability is not considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-43
Number of pages13
JournalAquatic Microbial Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Bacterial respiration
  • ETS activity
  • Microbial plankton respiration
  • Temporal variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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