Seasonal variation in consumption of benthic bacteria by meio- and macrofauna in an intertidal mudflat
Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(4), 2009, 1048-1059 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.4.1048
ABSTRACT: The trophic fate of benthic bacteria in an intertidal mudflat (Brouage, Marennes-Oléron, France) was evaluated in situ, and environmental parameters that potentially influence the consumption of bacteria by the most abundant organisms of the meio- and macrofauna were identified. Variations in grazing rates were estimated using 15N pre-enriched bacteria at different temporal and spatial scales on a cross-shore transect over the mudflat. Grazing incubations were performed in microcosms with freshly collected grazers. Environmental factors varied more by season than by day or sampling station. Bacterial uptake by grazers did not appear to be strongly influenced by abiotic factors and was not linked to bacterial abundance. Algal abundance was negatively correlated with bacterivory in both the nematode community and the foraminifer Ammonia tepida, suggesting that bacteria constitute an alternative resource that is consumed when algae are less abundant. Bacteria were mainly ingested by the mudsnail Hydrobia ulvae and secondarily by nematodes with grazing rates of copepods and A. tepida being considerably lower. The estimated grazing in the upper and middle part of the mudflat represented 7% and 28% of bacterial production, respectively. In the lower mudflat, daily grazing never represented >3% of bacterial production throughout the year. Consequently, grazing appears to be a minor factor in the regulation of bacterial production. Bacterivory did not vary clearly according to season; consequently, the fate of bacteria in this benthic food web is poorly structured by season.