Estimates of global cyanobacterial biomass and its distribution

Algological Studies
By: , and 



We estimated global cyanobacterial biomass in the main reservoirs of cyanobacteria on Earth: marine and freshwater plankton, arid land soil crusts, and endoliths. Estimates were based on typical population density values as measured during our research, or as obtained from literature surveys, which were then coupled with data on global geographical area coverage. Among the marine plankton, the global biomass of Prochlorococcus reaches 120 × 1012 grams of carbon (g C), and that of Synechoccus some 43 × 1012 g C. This makes Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus, in that order, the most abundant cyanobacteria on Earth. Tropical marine blooms of Trichodesmium account for an additional 10 × 1012 g C worldwide. In terrestrial environments, the mass of cyanobacteria in arid land soil crusts is estimated to reach 54 × 1012 g C and that of arid land endolithic communities an additional 14 × 1012 g C. The global biomass of planktic cyanobacteria in lakes is estimated to be around 3 × 1012 g C. Our conservative estimates, which did not include some potentially significant biomass reservoirs such as polar and subarctic areas, topsoils in subhumid climates, and shallow marine and freshwater benthos, indicate that the total global cyanobacterial biomass is in the order of 3 × 1014 g C, surpassing a thousand million metric tons (1015 g) of wet biomass.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estimates of global cyanobacterial biomass and its distribution
Series title Algological Studies
DOI 10.1127/1864-1318/2003/0109-0213
Volume 109
Issue 1
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 213
Last page 227
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