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Processes in Microbial Ecology$
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David L. Kirchman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199586936

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586936.001.0001

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Microbial growth, biomass production, and controls

Microbial growth, biomass production, and controls

(p.99) Chapter 6 Microbial growth, biomass production, and controls
Processes in Microbial Ecology

David L. Kirchman

Oxford University Press

Soon after the discovery that bacteria are abundant in natural environments, the question arose as to whether or not they were active. Although the plate count method suggested that they were dormant if not dead, other methods indicated that a large fraction of bacteria and fungi are active, as discussed in this chapter. The chapter describes fundamental equations for exponential growth and logistic growth, as well as phases of growth in batch cultures, continuous cultures, and chemostats. In contrast to measuring growth in laboratory cultures, it is difficult to measure it in natural environments for complex communities with co-occurring mortality. Among many methods that have been suggested over the years, the most common one for bacteria is the leucine approach; for fungi it is the acetate-in-ergosterol method. These methods indicate that the growth rate of the bulk community is on the order of days for bacteria in natural environment. It is faster in aquatic habitats than in soils: bacteria grow faster than fungi in soils. But bulk rates for bacteria appear to be slower than those for phytoplankton. All of these rates for natural communities are much slower than rates measured for most microbes in the laboratory. Some of the factors limiting heterotrophic bacteria and fungi include temperature and inorganic nutrients, but the supply of organic compounds is perhaps most important in most environments.

Keywords:   carbon cycle, single-cell growth, bacterial production, bottom-up controls, Monod equation, competition, co-limitation, density-dependent factors, density-independent factors

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