Decomposition: Relative Bacterial Heterotrophic Activity on Soluble Organic Matter

  • Robert G. Wetzel
  • Gene E. Likens


The decomposition of organic matter in aquatic ecosystems by microorganisms generally involves two processes: (1) the hydrolytic degradation of high molecular weight organic polymers into compounds of low molecular weight, such as glucose, cellobiose, and amino acids; and (2) the nonhydrolytic oxidative mineralization of low molecular weight organic compounds to inorganic compounds, especially CO2, H2S, NH4 +, and PO4 −3. Measurement of the rates of decomposition and of mineralization of organic matter in natural waters is difficult and has been approached in a number of ways.


Bacterial Community Substrate Concentration Organic Substrate Particulate Organic Carbon Mineralization Rate 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert G. Wetzel
    • 1
  • Gene E. Likens
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Ecosystem StudiesThe New York Botanical Garden, Cary ArboretumMillbrookUSA

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