Photoacclimation of natural phytoplankton communities

Graff, JR, Westberry, TK, Milligan, AJ, Brown, MB, Dall’Olmo, G, Reifel, KM and Behrenfeld, MJ 2016 Photoacclimation of natural phytoplankton communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series.

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Phytoplankton regulate internal pigment concentrations in response to light and nutrient availability. Chlorophyll to carbon ratios (Chl:Cphyto) are commonly reported as a function of growth irradiance (Eg) for evaluating the photoacclimation response of phytoplankton. In contrast to most culture experiments, natural phytoplankton communities experience fluctuating environmental conditions making it difficult to compare field and lab observations. Observing and understanding photoacclimation in nature is important for deciphering changes in Chl:Cphyto resulting from environmental forcings and for accurately estimating net primary production (NPP) in models which rely on a parameterized description of photoacclimation. Here we employ direct analytical measurements of Cphyto and parallel high-resolution biomass estimates from particulate backscattering (bbp) and flow cytometry to investigate Chl:Cphyto in natural phytoplankton communities. Chl:Cphyto observed over a wide range of Eg in the field was consistent with photoacclimation responses inferred from satellite observations. Field-based photoacclimation observations for a mixed natural community contrast with laboratory results for single species grown in continuous light and nutrient replete conditions. Applying a carbon-based net primary production (NPP) model to our field data for a north-south transect in the Atlantic Ocean results in estimates that closely match 14C depth-integrated NPP for the same cruise and with historical records for the distinct biogeographic regions of the Atlantic Ocean. Our results are consistent with previous satellite and model observations of cells growing in natural or fluctuating light and showcase how direct measurements of Cphyto can be applied to explore phytoplankton photophysiology, growth rates, and production at high spatial resolution in-situ.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Subjects: Biology
Ecology and Environment
Marine Sciences
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > National Capability categories > Atlantic Meridional Transect
Plymouth Marine Laboratory > National Capability categories > National Centre for Earth Observation
Depositing User: Giorgio Dall'Olmo
Date made live: 21 Jan 2016 11:43
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2018 09:44

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