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Summary

The stoichiometry of prokaryotes (Bacteria and Archaea) can control benthic phosphorus (P) fluxes relative to carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) during organic matter remineralization. This paper presents the first experimental data on benthic microbial stoichiometry. We used X-ray microanalysis to determine C : N : P ratios of individual prokaryotes from C-limited Baltic Sea sediments incubated under oxic or anoxic conditions. At approximately 400:1, C : P ratios of prokaryotes from both oxic and anoxic incubations were higher than the Redfield ratio for marine organic matter (106:1), whereas prokaryotic C : N ratios (6.4:1) were close to the Redfield ratio. We conclude that high microbial C : P ratios contribute to the enhanced remineralization of P from organic matter relative to C and N observed in many low oxygen marine settings.