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Cytometry. 2001 Jul 1;44(3):236-46.

Monitoring phytoplankton, bacterioplankton, and virioplankton in a coastal inlet (Bedford Basin) by flow cytometry.

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Biological Oceanography Section, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.



To establish the prevailing state of the ecosystem for the assessment of long-term change, the abundance of microbial plankton in Bedford Basin (Nova Scotia, Canada) is monitored weekly by flow cytometry.


Phytoplankton are detected by their chlorophyll autofluorescence. Those that contain phycoerythrin are designated as Synechococcus cyanobacteria or cryptophyte algae according to the intensity of light scatter. Bacteria and viruses are stained with DNA-binding fluorochromes and detected by green fluorescence. Distinction is made between bacterial and viral subpopulations exhibiting high and low fluorescence.


Time series data are presented for weekly observations from 1991 to 2000. Weekly averages are computed for the complete annual cycle of temperature, salinity, river discharge, nitrate, phosphate, silicate, chlorophyll, total phytoplankton including Synechococcus and cryptophytes, total bacteria including high and low-fluorescence subpopulations, and total viruses including high and low-fluorescence subpopulations.


The microbial biomass in the surface water of Bedford Basin is dominated by phytoplankton. The spring bloom of phytoplankton represents a maximum in algal biovolume, but not in cell number. Phytoplankton, bacteria, and viruses all attain their annual numerical maxima between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. A vigorous microbial loop and viral shunt is envisioned to occur in the summer.

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