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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2000 Apr 1;32(2):157-165.

Comparative analysis shows that bacterivory, not viral lysis, controls the abundance of heterotrophic prokaryotic plankton.

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  • 1Departament de Biologia Marina i Oceanografia, Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC, Passeig Joan de Borbó s/n, 08039, Barcelona, Spain


Empirical models derived from literature data were used to compare the factors controlling prokaryotic abundance (PN) and prokaryotic heterotrophic production (PHP) in solar salterns. These empirical relationships were generated as multiple linear regressions with PN or PHP as dependent variables, while the independent variables were chosen to reflect the likely sources of organic matter, inorganic nutrients and temperature. These variables were then measured in solar salterns and the predictions made by the general relationships were compared to actual saltern values of PN and PHP. Saltern ponds of salinity higher than 100 per thousand departed significantly from the general relationships, while the ponds of salinity lower than 100 per thousand fitted well within the range of values predicted by the general models. The most likely explanation for the discrepancy of the former was the absence of bacterivory. This hypothesis was tested with data from other very different aquatic systems: karstic lakes with anaerobic hypolimnia and two marine areas in the Mediterranean and the Southern Ocean. The anoxic regions of karstic lakes departed significantly from the predictions of the general model, while the oxic layers conformed to the predictions. As in the case of salterns, this difference could be explained by the presence of significant predation in the oxic, but not in the anoxic, layers of these lakes. Finally, two marine areas with similar predation pressure on prokaryotes but very different impacts of viral lysis were tested. In all cases, PN values conformed to the predictions, suggesting that lysis due to viruses is not the main factor controlling PN in aquatic systems, which is more likely to be determined by the balance between bacterivory and resource supply. The present work also demonstrates the usefulness of empirical comparative analyses to generate predictions and to draw inferences on the functioning of microbial communities.

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