• heterotrophic bacteria;
  • leucine;
  • solar radiation


The sensitivity of coastal marine bacterioplankton to natural photosynthetically active radiation (PAR, 400–700 nm) and ultraviolet radiation (UVR, 280–400 nm) was evaluated in five experiments over a seasonal cycle in the Blanes Bay, NW Mediterranean Sea. Exposure to natural solar radiation generally inhibited bulk bacterial activities or damaged membrane integrity when irradiances were high (i.e. spring and summer experiments) and, in general, UVB (280–320 nm) accounted for most of the inhibition. When assessing activity (3H-leucine uptake) at the single-cell level by microautoradiography and rRNA gene probing, seasonally varying responses and sensitivities were found among bacterial groups. While autumn and winter irradiances seemed too low to cause changes in activity, variable effects were found in spring and summer. SAR11 was consistently inhibited by UVR and PAR exposure, whereas Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes showed higher resistance. Roseobacter, Synechococcus and the NOR5 clade were occasionally photostimulated in their activity, mainly because of PAR. Our results indicate that a component of seasonality exists in the bacterial responses to solar radiation, which vary not only depending on the irradiance and the spectral characteristics, but also on the previous light history and the taxonomic composition of the community.