Bacterial assemblages in coastal pelagic environments are exposed to pronounced temporal and spatial fluctuations in the availability of monomeric substrates. Little is known about the response of particular bacterial groups to such variability. We studied glucose incorporation at various concentrations (0.1–100 nM) by bacteria related to Roseobacter, SAR11, Gammaproteobacteria and Cytophaga-Flavobacteria in coastal North Sea waters in late winter and during a spring phytoplankton bloom dominated by Phaeocystis sp. (March and May 2004 respectively). Both the fraction of glucose-assimilating bacterial cells and the rate of substrate incorporation per active cell were higher in May. The respective contributions of the studied groups to all glucose-assimilating Bacteria were related to substrate concentration. The majority of glucose-incorporating bacterial cells at the lower concentrations were members of the Roseobacter and SAR11 clades. At both time-points the two groups formed approximately equal fractions of all glucose-incorporating bacteria. This was due to a small population of highly active Roseobacter cells and high abundances of SAR11 bacteria with low proportions of glucose-incorporating cells. By contrast, the proportion of active cells from the Cytophaga-Flavobacteria lineage substantially increased at higher levels of available substrate. The determination of concentration-dependent substrate incorporation patterns may help to better understand the different ecophysiological niches of bacterioplankton populations.
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