Marine Biology

, Volume 85, Issue 3, pp 293–300 | Cite as

Productivity of bacteria and microalgae and the effect of grazing by holothurians in sediments on a coral reef flat

  • D. J. W. Moriarty
  • P. C. Pollard
  • W. G. Hunt
  • C. M. Moriarty
  • T. J. Wassenberg


Bacterial productivity in sandy sediments on reef flats at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef was determined from the rate of incorporation of tritiated thymidine into DNA. The study was conducted during January 1982 and July 1983. A small diurnal increase occurred in sediments having a dense population of microalgae. Bacterial production was 120 to 370 mg C m-2 d-1 in summer on reef flats, which was equivalent to 30–40% of primary production by benthic microalgae. In winter, rates of primary production by benthic microalgae and secondary production by bacteria were about one-half to one-fifth of those in summer. There was much variation in production, due to patchiness in the distribution of benthic microbes, especially microalgae. Doubling times for the bacteria in surface sediment were 1 to 2 d in summer and 4 to 16 d in winter on the reef flats. These high productivity values for bacteria indicated that a net input of organic matter to the sediment was needed to support the growth of bacteria. Sediment bacteria thus have a very important role in transforming organic matter on the reef flats. Grazing by Holothuria atra depressed both primary production and bacterial production. It was estimated that these holothurians ate about 10 to 40% of bacterial carbon produced each day in summer, and thus have an important role in the carbon cycle. Harpacticoid copepods were numerically important components of the benthic meiofaunal community and probably had a significant impact on bacterial density as grazers.


Microbe Microalgae Thymidine Coral Reef Carbon Cycle 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. J. W. Moriarty
    • 1
  • P. C. Pollard
    • 1
  • W. G. Hunt
    • 1
  • C. M. Moriarty
    • 2
  • T. J. Wassenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.CSIRO Marine LaboratoriesClevelandAustralia
  2. 2.Wellington PointAustralia

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