Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 20 Issue 02

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Volume 20, No. 2
Pages 89 - 100


Microbes and the Dissipation of Energy and Respiration: From Cells to Ecosystems

By Craig A. Carlson , Paul A. del Giorgio, and Gerhard J. Herndl  
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In the year 1974, Larry Pomeroy first proposed that microbes were true movers of energy and nutrients in marine food webs (Pomeroy, 1974). This idea was later formalized as the “microbial loop” (Azam et al., 1983; Pomeroy et al., this issue) in which energy and carbon lost from the planktonic food web in the form of dissolved organic matter (DOM) was recovered and repackaged by heterotrophic bacterioplankton to particulate organic matter (POM). Their ecological role within the microbial loop is to facilitate the transformation of DOM to POM (a trophic “link”) (Azam et al., 1983) or to remineralize DOM back to its inorganic constituents (a respiratory “sink”) (Ducklow et al., 1986). These early studies laid the conceptual framework for investigations that linked microbial processes to the flow of energy in marine food webs (microbial ecology or trophodynamics). The link to ocean biogeochemistry is elucidated in studies of how the flow of energy through microbial processes manifests itself as demand for and recycling of elemental nutrients.


Carlson, C.A., P.A. del Giorgio, and G.J. Herndl. 2007. Microbes and the dissipation of energy and respiration: From cells to ecosystems. Oceanography 20(2):89–100, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2007.52.

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