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Bacterial biomass determinations in the Athabasca River were complicated by the presence of large quantities of suspended silt in the flowing water. Differences in the size of free-living and particle-associated bacteria had to be considered in cell-volume-based biomass estimations. While the presence of particles did not present major difficulties for the detection of bacteria by epifluorescence microscopy, problems were encountered during biomass estimations based on extractable ATP. Corrections had to be made for particle and chemical quenching in the ATP assay. After appropriate adjustments had been made, the ATP-based biomass values indicated that a large fraction of the cells present in the water were dead. Incomplete extraction may have contributed to the apparent high numbers of dead bacteria.
aquatic bacteria, bacterial biomass, silt-laden rivers, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), epifluorescence microscopy, bacterial cell volumes
Assistant professor, California State University, Long Beach, Calif.
Professor of Microbiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta