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By T. M. Fenchel, B. Barker Jørgensen (auth.), M. Alexander (eds.)

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The respiring organisms use various electron acceptors to oxidize the organic compounds. The highest energy yield is obtained when 02 is the oxidizing agent. The thermodynamic drive for this aerobic respiration is expressed by the Eh gradient: An electric potential difference of 500 m V or more exists between the surface and the deeper sediment layers. 26 T. M. Fenchel and B. Barker Jorgensen As schematically shown in Fig. 9, there is a vertical sequence of the dominant electron acceptors in the sediment.

Although all substrates yielded numbers up to 1-3 X 104 cells/ml, there was a slight differentiation in the vertical distribution of the different types. The CO 2 /H 2 and formate-fermenting bacteria dominated at 2-3 cm depth, and the acetate- and methanol-fermenting ones dominated at 4-5 cm depth. Experiments with 14C-Iabeled substrates indicated that acetate alone was the precursor of 70 %of the methanogenesis in the mud (Cappenberg and Prins, 1974). Similar results have been obtained from tracer experiments in anaerobic sewage digesters (Jeris and McCarty, 1965; Smith and Mah, 1966).

Note that the mineral nutrient enrichment has the greatest effect in terms of biomass on the bacterial grazers. Redrawn from Fenchel and Harrison {1976}. If the initial PO! - may decrease to very low levels « 1 ,ug/liter). This shows that the decomposing bacteria are extremely efficient in taking up this nutrient and that its availability may limit the size of the microbial biomass present (Fig. 7). Using pulse injections of 32PO! - to such systems, Barsdate et al. (1974) and Fenchel and Rahn (in preparation) have shown that there is a very rapid turnover of the pool of dissolved PO!

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