Abstract Research of the microbial ecology of McMurdo Dry Valley lakes has concentrated primarily on phototrophs; relatively little is known about the heterotrophic bacterioplankton. Bacteria represent a substantial proportion of water column biomass in these lakes, comprising 30 to 60% of total microplankton biomass. Bacterial production and cell numbers were measured 3 to 5 times, within four Antarctic seasons (October to January), in Lakes Fryxell, Hoare, and Bonney. The winter-spring transition (September to October) was included during one year. Lake Fryxell was the most productive, but variable, lake, followed by Lakes Bonney and Hoare. Bacterial production ranged from 0 to 0.009 µg C ml-1 d-1; bacterial populations ranged from 3.2 x 10(4) to 4.4 x 10(7) cells ml-1. Bacterial production was always greatest just below the ice cover at the beginning of the season. A second maximum developed just above the chemocline of all the lakes, as the season progressed. Total bacterioplankton biomass in the lakes decreased as much as 88% between successive sampling dates in the summer, as evidenced by areal integration of bacterial populations; the largest decreases in biomass typically occurred in mid-December. A forward difference model of bacterial loss in the trophogenic zone and the entire water column of these lakes showed that loss rates in the summer reached 6.3 x 10(14) cells m-2 d-1 and 4.16 x 10(12) cells m-2 d-1, respectively. These results imply that bacteria may be a source of carbon to higher trophic levels in these lakes, through grazing.
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