Organic Matter Composition at Ocean Station Papa Affects Its Bioavailability, Bacterioplankton Growth Efficiency and the Responding Taxa

Brandon M. Stephens, Keri Opalk, Daniel Petras, Shuting Liu, Jacqueline Comstock, Lihini I. Aluwihare, Dennis A. Hansell, Craig A. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The bioavailability of organic matter (OM) to marine heterotrophic bacterioplankton is determined by both the chemical composition of OM and the microbial community composition. In the current study, changes in OM bioavailability were identified at Ocean Station Papa as part of the 2018 Export Processes in the Ocean from Remote Sensing (EXPORTS) field study. Removal rates of carbon (C) in controlled experiments were significantly correlated with the initial composition of total hydrolyzable amino acids, and C removal rates were high when the amino acid degradation index suggested a more labile composition. Carbon remineralization rates averaged 0.19 ± 0.08 μmol C L–1 d–1 over 6–10 days while bacterial growth efficiencies averaged 31 ± 7%. Amino acid composition and tandem mass spectrometry analysis of compound classes also revealed transformations to a more degraded OM composition during experiments. There was a log2-fold increase in the relative abundances of 16S rDNA-resolved bacterioplankton taxa in most experiments by members of the Methylophilaceae family (OM43 genus) and KI89A order. Additionally, when OM was more bioavailable, relative abundances increased by at least threefold for the classes Bacteroidetes (Flavobacteriaceae NS2b genus), Alphaproteobacteria (Rhodobacteraceae Sulfitobacter genus), and Gammaproteobacteria (Alteromonadales and Ectothiorhodospiraceae orders). Our data suggest that a diverse group of bacterioplankton was responsible for removing organic carbon and altering the OM composition to a more degraded state. Elevated community diversity, as inferred from the Shannon–Wiener H index, may have contributed to relatively high growth efficiencies by the bacterioplankton. The data presented here shed light on the interconnections between OM bioavailability and key bacterioplankton taxa for the degradation of marine OM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number590273
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
StatePublished - Dec 10 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • 16S rDNA
  • LC-MS/MS
  • Ocean Station Papa
  • alpha diversity
  • bacterial growth efficiency
  • dissolved organic matter
  • organic matter remineralization
  • total hydrolyzable amino acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


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