Marine nutrient dynamics of the KwaZulu-Natal bight : assessing bacterial numbers, biomass and productivity.
The KwaZulu‒Natal Bight is formed from a narrow indentation in the SE coast of South Africa with the waters within considered to be oligotrophic. These waters therefore depend on both allochthonous sources of nutrients such as intermittent upwelling of deeper water and nutrients supplied by riverine inputs, as well as the autochthonous nutrients supplied by phytoplankton production, microbial fixation and recycling of nutrients by the microbial loop. Two African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme cruises were undertaken during 2010, during the wet summer, and dry winter months. During each cruise, the waters of the KZN‒B were sampled rapidly to provide spatial scales (synoptic) of bacterial abundance and biomass, as well as at four predetermined locations to determine temporal scales (focus) of bacterial abundance, biomass and productivity. During the synoptic section, samples were taken in surface waters, close to F‒max (the depth at which phytoplankton were at their most dense as determined by in situ fluorometry), below the F‒max (where depths exceeded 50 m), and near the bottom. These samples were fixed with formaldehyde, stained with DAPI and cells were visualised by epifluorescent microscopy. During the focus section, samples were taken in surface waters, close to F‒max and below F‒max and incubated with 3H‒Thymidine to determine bacterial productivity. Bacterioplankton dynamics (numbers, biomass and productivity) for both cruises, synoptic section, were higher within the photic zone and near riverine influenced waters, with summer showing higher dynamics than winter. Irrespective of season, bacterioplankton dynamics decreased with increasing distance from the coast as well as with increasing depth, potentially via bottom‒up control mechanisms. Results obtained from the focus section of both cruises showed a significant difference between seasons for the Thukela Mouth and Richards Bay North, while no difference at the Durban Eddy. These results from the focus section suggest that bacterioplankton temporal dynamics were more top‒down controlled, rather than environmentally influenced, resulting in fluctuating dynamics over time. Overall, it is proposed that the degree of inorganic nutrient supply to the phytoplankton, resulted in the formation of DOM for use by the heterotrophic bacteria, resulting in a bottom‒up control mechanism, where Chl‒a concentrations within the euphotic zone induces either top‒down or bottom‒up control mechanisms on the heterotrophic bacteria directly affecting their numbers, biomass and productivity.
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