Silicate and labile DOC interfere in structuring the microbial food web via algal–bacterial competition for mineral nutrients: Results of a mesocosm experiment

Havskum, Harry, T. Frede Thingstad, Renate Scharek, Francesc Peters, Elisa Berdalet, M. Montserrat Sala, Miquel Alcaraz, Jan C. Bangsholt, Ulla Li Zweifel, Åke Hagström, Maite Perez, John R. Dolan

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(1), 2003, 129-140 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.1.0129

ABSTRACT: The effects of organic and inorganic nutrient enrichments on algal-bacterial competition were investigated using mesocosms. Interactions were followed over 10 d in 12, 3-m3 seawater mesocosms in the Isefjord, Denmark. Two sets of four mesocosms were given the same daily addition of "phytoplankton nutrients" (phosphate and nitrate) but received different amounts of glucose, and one set was kept in excess with respect to silicate. Four additional mesocosms served as controls and received either no additions, silicate alone, or glucose alone. In the mesocosm set where no silicate was added, enrichment with phytoplankton nutrients and glucose led to a replacement of diatoms, not by other algae, but by heterotrophic bacteria, mainly bacteria > 2 µm. In the mesocosm set where silicate was kept replete, diatoms competed successfully with bacteria for the uptake of mineral nutrients. Even in mesocosms enriched with high amounts of glucose, primary production increased throughout the experimental period, while bacterial production, after an initial increase, leveled off. In addition, turnover time of glucose increased in the silicate-replete mesocosm set, consistent with the idea that bacterial consumption was hampered by diatoms competing successfully for phosphate and nitrate. The size and shape of different algal and bacterial groups in relation to nutrient uptake and grazer avoidance are discussed. Both accumulation and consumption of dissolved organic carbon could depend on the structure of the microbial food web.

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