Bacterioplankton refers to the bacterial component of the plankton that drifts in the water column. The name comes from the Ancient Greek word πλανκτος (planktos), meaning "wanderer" or "drifter" (Thurman, 1997), and bacterium, a Latin neologism coined in the 19th century by Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg. They are found in both seawater and freshwater.
Bacterioplankton occupy a range of ecological niches in aquatic systems. Many are saprotrophic, and obtain energy by consuming organic material produced by other organisms. This material may be dissolved in the medium and taken directly from there, or bacteria may live and grow in association with particulate material such as marine snow. Many other bacterioplankton species are autotrophic, and derive energy from either photosynthesis or chemosynthesis. The former are often categorised as picophytoplankton, and include cyanobacterial groups such as Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus. Bacterioplankton also play roles in ecological pathways such as nitrogen fixation, nitrification, denitrification, remineralisation and methanogenesis.
- Thurman, H. V. (1997). Introductory Oceanography. New Jersey, USA: Prentice Hall College. ISBN 0-13-262072-3.