Free-living and particle-associated prokaryote metabolism in giant kelp forests: Implications for carbon flux in a sub-Antarctic coastal area

Extensive beds of large subtidal kelps are characteristic of many temperate and subpolar coastlines. They provide habitats for a wide range of other species and are sites of high primary production that generate large quantities of water-borne particles and dissolved organic compounds that support distinctive communities of prokaryotes. We measured prokaryotic metabolism along transects from the shore to the outside of three giant kelp forests (Macrocystis pyrifera) located in the shelf waters of the Prince Edward Islands (Southern Ocean). Abundance, heterotrophic production (PHP), respiration rates (R-ETS) and growth efficiencies (PGE) were investigated within the particle-associated (PA) and the free-living (FL) communities. Temperature, salinity and inorganic nutrient concentrations indicated distinct hydrological differences among the kelp forests that were related to different levels of freshwater input through island run-off. In contrast, detritus and particulate organic matter concentrations showed a common pattern, decreasing from the near-shore to offshore at all sampling sites, suggesting the retention of organically enriched water masses inshore of the kelp forests. While FL and PA abundances did not differ significantly along transects, FL and PA-PHP and PGE all varied significantly across the kelp forests, following the same pattern across each forest. PA-PGE was significantly higher than FL-PGE in the near-shore waters and farther offshore, while FL-PGE was higher or equal to PA-PGE inside the kelp. This shift can be interpreted in terms of gradients in both the age and origins of organic material across the kelp forests. Higher PA-PGE implies that a larger fraction of organic carbon on colonized particles is converted into prokaryotic biomass and so becomes available to higher trophic levels inshore and offshore of M. pyrifera forests than inside the kelp bed. In contrast, low PA-PGE suggests that a large quantity of carbon passes through the PA-community and is mainly respired within the kelp forest. These results suggest the retention of particles within giant kelp forests. In controlling the metabolic activity of PA and FL prokaryotes, this retention will influence overall carbon flux around the archipelago. In particular, the observation of a common pattern across different M. pyrifera forests has important implications for the role of this species as an autogenic ecological engineer in coastal environments. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


prokaryotes, free-living, particle-associated, growth efficiency, kelp, sub-Antarctic island

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Schapira MATHILDE, McQuaid Christopher D., Froneman Pierre W. (2012). Free-living and particle-associated prokaryote metabolism in giant kelp forests: Implications for carbon flux in a sub-Antarctic coastal area. Estuarine Coastal And Shelf Science. 106. 69-79.,

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