Articles | Volume 4, issue 1
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 4, 101–106, 2012

Special issue: MAREDAT – Towards a world atlas of marine plankton functional...

Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 4, 101–106, 2012

  10 Sep 2012

10 Sep 2012

Picoheterotroph (Bacteria and Archaea) biomass distribution in the global ocean

E. T. Buitenhuis1, W. K. W. Li2, M. W. Lomas3, D. M. Karl4, M. R. Landry5, and S. Jacquet6 E. T. Buitenhuis et al.
  • 1Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK
  • 2Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 3Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, St. George's GE01, Bermuda
  • 4Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
  • 5Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  • 6INRA, UMR CARRTEL, 75 Avenue de Corzent, 74200 Thonon-les-Bains, France

Abstract. We compiled a database of 39 766 data points consisting of flow cytometric and microscopical measurements of picoheterotroph abundance, including both Bacteria and Archaea. After gridding with 1° spacing, the database covers 1.3% of the ocean surface. There are data covering all ocean basins and depths except the Southern Hemisphere below 350 m or from April until June. The average picoheterotroph biomass is 3.9 ± 3.6 μg C l−1 with a 20-fold decrease between the surface and the deep sea. We estimate a total ocean inventory of about 1.3 × 1029 picoheterotroph cells. Surprisingly, the abundance in the coastal regions is the same as at the same depths in the open ocean. Using an average of published open ocean measurements for the conversion from abundance to carbon biomass of 9.1 fg cell−1, we calculate a picoheterotroph carbon inventory of about 1.2 Pg C. The main source of uncertainty in this inventory is the conversion factor from abundance to biomass. Picoheterotroph biomass is ~2 times higher in the tropics than in the polar oceans.