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The deep-sea floor has long been considered a 'food desert' but recent observations suggest that episodic inputs of relatively fresh organic matter (phytodetritus) occur and that benthic processing of this material may be rapid. Although the responses of the total community in terms of oxygen consumption and of some individual benthic groups have been identified, the quantitative role of the different groups in the short-term response remains largely unknown. We examined the short-term response in major benthic compartments in an in situ experiment in the NE Atlantic (2170 m water depth) using 13C-enriched diatoms as a tracer of labile carbon. Within 35 h, 6 mg C m-2 was processed by the benthos, with the majority of the processed carbon recorded as respiration (45%). Among the fauna retained on a 300 µm sieve, Foraminifera were rapid consumers which, together with Bacteria, accounted for 50% of the processing. Therefore, although Bacteria dominate long-term carbon mineralization (as suggested by their general dominance in the benthic biomass), some faunal components, in this case Foraminifera, may play a central role in the rapid initial processing of fresh organic carbon in deep-sea sediments. [KEYWORDS: Deep-sea; Benthic-pelagic coupling; 13C labelling; Tracer; Respiration; Bacteria; PLFA; Foraminifera; Benthos]
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Journal publication date2002

ID: 319725