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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Jun;69(6):3036-47.

Dynamics of microbial communities on marine snow aggregates: colonization, growth, detachment, and grazing mortality of attached bacteria.

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Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, DK-2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark.


We studied the dynamics of microbial communities attached to model aggregates (4-mm-diameter agar spheres) and the component processes of colonization, detachment, growth, and grazing mortality. Agar spheres incubated in raw seawater were rapidly colonized by bacteria, followed by flagellates and ciliates. Colonization can be described as a diffusion process, and encounter volume rates were estimated at about 0.01 and 0.1 cm(3) h(-1) for bacteria and flagellates, respectively. After initial colonization, the abundances of flagellates and ciliates remained approximately constant at 10(3) to 10(4) and approximately 10(2) cells sphere(-1), respectively, whereas bacterial populations increased at a declining rate to >10(7) cells sphere(-1). Attached microorganisms initially detached at high specific rates of approximately 10(-2) min(-1), but the bacteria gradually became irreversibly attached to the spheres. Bacterial growth (0 to 2 day(-1)) was density dependent and declined hyperbolically when cell density exceeded a threshold. Bacterivorous flagellates grazed on the sphere surface at an average saturated rate of 15 bacteria flagellate(-1) h(-1). At low bacterial densities, the flagellate surface clearance rate was approximately 5 x 10(-7) cm(2) min(-1), but it declined hyperbolically with increasing bacterial density. Using the experimentally estimated process rates and integrating the component processes in a simple model reproduces the main features of the observed microbial population dynamics. Differences between observed and predicted population dynamics suggest, however, that other factors, e.g., antagonistic interactions between bacteria, are of importance in shaping marine snow microbial communities.

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