Strategies for sampling sediment bacteria were examined in intensive shrimp, Penaeus monodon (Fabricius), ponds in tropical Australia. Stratified sampling of bacteria at the end of the production season showed that the pond centre, containing flocculated sludge, had significantly higher bacterial counts (15.5 X 10(9) g(-1) dw) than the pond periphery (8.1 X 10(9) g(-1) dw), where the action of aerators had swept the pond floor. The variation in bacterial counts between these two zones within a pond was higher than that between sites within each zone or between ponds. Therefore, sampling effort should be focused within these zones: for example, sampling two ponds at six locations within each of the two zones resulted in a coefficient of variation of approximate to 5%. Bacterial numbers in the sediment were highly correlated with sediment grain size, probably because eroded soil particles and organic waste both accumulated in the centre of the pond. Despite high inputs of organic matter added to the ponds, principally as pelleted feeds, the mean bacterial numbers and nutrient concentrations (i.e. organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) in the sediment were similar to those found in mangrove sediments. This suggests that bacteria are rapidly remineralizing particulates into soluble compounds. Bacterial numbers were highly correlated with organic carbon and total kjeldahl nitrogen in the sediment, suggesting that these were limiting factors to bacterial growth.
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