Dissolved Organic Matter and Heterotrophic Microneuston in the Surface Microlayers of the North Atlantic

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Science  24 Dec 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4272, pp. 1415-1418
DOI: 10.1126/science.194.4272.1415


Dissolved organic carbon, carbohydrates, and adenosine triphosphate in the size fractions 0.2 to 3 micrometers and 3 to 1000 micrometers are significantly enriched in the upper 150-micrometer surface layer compared to subsurface water, mean enrichment factors being 1.6, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.1, respectively. When calculated as a 0.1-micrometer microlayer of wet surfactants, the mean concentration of organic matter was 2.9 grams per liter, of which carbohydrates accounted for 28 percent. The data for plant pigments and particulate adenosine triphosphate indicated that bacterioneuston was enriched at seven of nine stations while phagotrophic protists were enriched at five stations. Instances of enrichment and inhibition were verified by cultural data for bacteria and amoebas. The observations indicate that the surface microlayers are largely heterotrophic microcosms, which can be as rich as laboratory cultures, and that an appreciable part of the dissolved organic carbon is carbohydrate of phytoplankton origin, released and brought to the surface by migrating and excreting phagotrophic protists.