During RV Meteor cruise No. 10 from May to June 1989 (JGOFS pilot study) bacterial and picocyanobacterial abundance, biomass, and bacterial production were estimated at two drift stations close to 47N, 20W and 58N, 20W in the northeast Atlantic. At 47N two different mesoscale hydrographic structures were sampled which divided the drift experiment into a cyclonic and an anticyclonic circulation phase. Transition from one phase to the next was clearly reflected by changes of the biological structure in the upper water column. Phytoplankton stocks maintained during the cyclonic phase were about 1.8 times higher than those of the anticyclonic phase (1552 mg C m−2 and 880 mg C m−2, resp., integrated over the mixed layer, Deckers, 1991). Integrated stocks of bacteria showed an opposite pattern of distribution. Picocyanobacterial biomass (PCB) was 3.4 times higher during the anticyclonic phase than during the cyclonic phase (96 mg C m−2 and 28 mg C m−2, resp.), and the respective factor for total bacterial biomass (TBB) was 3.7 (830 mg C m−2 and 225 mg C m−2, resp.). Our analysis indicates that the combined bacterial biomass dominated within the mixed layer during the anticyclonic phase, while the cyclonic phase was clearly dominated by eucaryotic phytoplankton. Additional evidence for a shift of biology toward the microbial food web was indicated by a strong increase of bacteria during the anticyclonic phase. Thus, simultaneously and side by side, an autotrophic and a heterotrophic system were supported by the prevailing hydrographic conditions. At 58N within an anticyclonic mesoscale hydrographic structure the phytoplankton bloom was at a developing stage, characterized by low biomass (730 mg C m−2 in the mixed layer, Deckers, 1991) but relatively high primary production. In contrast, bacterial stocks were quite high, but bacterial production was low in comparison to the anticyclonic phase at 47N (90 mg C m−2 d−1 and 153 mg C m−2 d−1, resp., integrated from 0–300 m). It was calculated that bacterial gross production averaged 42% (47N, anticyclonic phase) and 25% (58N) of primary production. These results suggest that within a specific type of hydrographic structure either a heterotrophic or an autotrophic system can be established, depending on the stage of bloom development. In conclusion: Depending on their origin and age, mesoscale hydrographic structures can be correlated with different stages of biological development. This leads to the mesoscale patchiness of biological measurements, which is a characteristic feature of the northeast Atlantic.