Relative significance of pelagic, benthic and allochthonous organic matter to microbial carbon cycling in a phosphorus-depleted subtropical estuary (Florida Bay)

Clayton Jack Williams, Florida International University


Heterotrophic bacteria are important decomposers and transformers of primary production and provide an important link between detritus and the aquatic food web. In seagrass ecosystems, much of seagrass primary production is unavailable through direct grazing and must undergo microbial reworking before seagrass production can enter the aquatic food web. The goal of my dissertation research is to understand better the role heterotrophic bacteria play in carbon cycling in seagrass estuaries. My dissertation research focuses on Florida Bay, a seagrass estuary that has experienced recent changes in carbon source availability, which may have altered ecosystem function. My dissertation research investigates the importance of seagrass, algal and/or cyanobacterial, and allochthonous-derived organic matter to heterotrophic bacteria in Florida Bay and helps establish the carbon base of the estuarine food web. ^ A three tiered approach to the study of heterotrophic bacterial carbon cycling and trophic influences in Florida Bay was used: (1) Spatiotemporal observations of environmental parameters (hydrology, nutrients, extracellular enzymes, and microbial abundance, biomass, and production); (2) Microbial grazing experiments under different levels of top-down and bottom-up influence; and (3) Bulk and compound-specific (bacteria-biomarker fatty acid analysis) stable carbon isotope analysis. ^ In Florida Bay, spatiotemporal patterns in microbial extracellular enzyme (also called ectoenzyme) activities indicate that microorganisms hydrolyzed selectively fractions of the estuarine organic matter pool. The microbial community hydrolyzed organic acids, peptides, and phosphate esters and did not use storage and structural carbohydrates. Organic matter use by heterotrophic bacterioplankton in Florida Bay was co-regulated by bottom-up (resource availability) and top-down (grazer mediated) processes. A bacterial carbon budget based on bacterial, epiphytic, and seagrass production indicates that heterotrophic bacterial carbon cycles are supported primarily through epiphytic production with mixing from seagrass production. Stable carbon isotope analysis of bacteria biomarkers and carbon sources in Florida Bay corroborate the results of the bacterial carbon budget. These results support previous studies of aquatic consumers in Florida Bay, indicating that epiphytic/benthic algal and/or cyanobacterial production with mixing from seagrass-derived organic matter is the carbon base of the seagrass estuarine food web. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Ecology|Biology, Oceanography|Biogeochemistry

Recommended Citation

Williams, Clayton Jack, "Relative significance of pelagic, benthic and allochthonous organic matter to microbial carbon cycling in a phosphorus-depleted subtropical estuary (Florida Bay)" (2008). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3343360.