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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Biogeochemical cycling of copper in the Northeast Pacific Ocean : role of marine heterotrophic bacteria Posacka, Anna


Copper (Cu) is important in regulating microbial activity in the ocean, as it can act both as a limiting nutrient and a toxic inhibitor depending on its concentration. Yet, our knowledge of its biogeochemical cycle is limited in many oceanic regions including the subarctic Northeast (NE) Pacific, as is our knowledge of Cu nutrition in marine heterotrophic bacteria. To address this, I investigated Cu biogeochemical cycling along a coastal‒oceanic transect, Line P, in the subarctic NE Pacific (Chapter 2). I also explored physiological responses to varying Cu availability (limiting to sufficient) of taxonomically diverse heterotrophic bacteria, which include isolates from surface waters of the Line P transect (Flavobacteriia member: Dokdonia sp. Dokd-P16, and Gammaproteobacteria members Pseudoalteromonas sp. strain PAlt-P2 [coastal] and PAlt-P26 [oceanic]), and a member of the marine Roseobacter clade within class Alphaproteobacteria (Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3). Several important processes were identified to moderate dissolved Cu along Line P. These include fluvial and sedimentary inputs (near the coast), upwelling of deep, Cu-rich waters in the Alaskan gyre (offshore), atmospheric inputs (offshore), as well as scavenging within the intermediate waters of the Oxygen Minimum Zone (OMZ) across the transect. Bacterial responses to changing Cu availability were diverse. Flavobacteriia member Dokd-P16 reduced its growth rate, carbon metabolism, and Cu quota (Cu:P) under Cu limitation, but enhanced its Mn quota. In contrast, both Pseudoalteromonas spp. were mostly unaffected by different Cu levels. Ruegeria pomeroyi maintained constant growth rates but moderated quotas of several metals (under low Cu: decreased Cu and Co, but increased Mn and Fe quotas), and some aspects of its C metabolism. These findings illuminate on the role of Cu in shaping bacterial species composition in the ocean, and the bacterially-mediated cycles of carbon and bioactive metals (i.e. Fe, Zn, Mn, Co). Copper quotas of heterotrophic bacteria are similar to those of cultured marine phytoplankton. Estimates of Cu partitioning between these planktonic groups in the euphotic zone of the NE Pacific revealed that up to 50% of biogenic Cu could be associated with bacterial biomass. Therefore, marine heterotrophic bacteria should not be overlooked in studies of Cu biogeochemical cycling.

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