How abundant are bacteria in terms of biomass?

Tue Feb 28 13:51:46 EST 1995

There are a number of papers that have examined the relative abundance of 
bacteria vs other organisms in the marine environment.  It turns out that 
the total biomass of bacteria in the marine environment is about the same 
as all other organisms combined, or perhaps larger in some situations.  I 
don't have the references immediately at hand but can dig them out, if 
you wish; they were in the late 80s, early 90s, as I recall.  One was a 
Nature or Science paper by Cho and Azam, Another was by Fuhrman et al. in 
Marine Ecology Progress Series, and another was by Li, WKW in Deep Sea 

Hope this helps ... Curtis

   Q              |  \
   |\             |---\--\  
   | \            |_____OO\________        Curtis Suttle
   |__\___________/________/______/        Marine Science Inst
    \ o o o o         LONGHORN O /         Univ of Texas @ Austin
     \                        VV/          Port Aransas  TX 78373
~~~~~~\~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~/~~~~~  curtis at

On Tue, 28 Feb 1995, Doug Eernisse wrote:

> I previously wrote:
> @ > Sure, there are lots more bacterial cells out there than
> @ > eukaryotic cells, but how do they stack up relative to
> @ > important organisms such as diatoms, dinoflagellates, copepods,
>     ^^^^^^^^^
> @ > etc., in terms of total biomass on Earth? Have there been
> @ > any estimates broken down according to the extant phylogenetic 
> @ > groups of bacteria?
> and Richard Heath responded:
> > Are you suggesting that bacteria aren't important???
> > (don't know the answer to your question though, sorry)
> Nope. I have read that diatoms (the most abundant phytoplankton
> organisms) produce more oxygen and have greater biomass than all 
> land plants combined. That seems important to me. Copepod biomass
> dwarfs that of any other animal's biomass. Ditto. I have read
> that there are more bacterial cells than eukaryotic cells. So
> how much total biomass do bacterial cells account for. I have
> no clue.
> Sure, there are bacteria that could whip a polar bear (oops, sorry,
> wrong thread 8^).
> Doug
> -- 
> Doug Eernisse <DEernisse at>
> Dept. Biological Science MH282
> California State University
> Fullerton, CA 92634

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