High photosynthetic rates associated with pico and nanophytoplankton communities and high stratification index in the North West Atlantic

Robinson, A, Bouman, HA, Tilstone, GH and Sathyendranath, S 2018 High photosynthetic rates associated with pico and nanophytoplankton communities and high stratification index in the North West Atlantic. Continental Shelf Research, 171. 126-139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2018.10.010

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The biological dynamics of pelagic marine ecosystems are strongly influenced by the size structure and ecological succession of phytoplankton, which in turn modifies photosynthetic efficiency. Variability in photosynthetic rates is closely coupled with changes in community structure, but it is difficult to obtain coincident data at high enough resolution to characterise these changes. In this study, we employ hierarchical cluster analysis on chlorophyll-normalised high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) pigment concentrations from the North West Atlantic, to identify seasonal successional trends amongst phytoplankton populations. Changes in phytoplankton community were also analysed as a function of mean equivalent spherical diameter (MESD) derived from absorption measurements, photosynthetic rates, water-column stratification and temperature. Well-mixed conditions in spring to early summer were associated with populations of large cells containing high concentrations of fucoxanthin, chlorophyll-c1 and chlorophyll-c2 relative to chlorophyll-a (Chl a). As stratification increased over the course of the summer, these cells were replaced by populations dominated by chlorophyll-b, 19'-hexanoyloxyfucoxanthin, 19'-butanoyloxyfucoxanthin and divinyl chlorophyll-a, indicative of small picophytoplankton. As stratification decreased in autumn, MESD and alloxanthin increased, suggesting the presence of cryptophytes. Positive relationships were found between MESD and the quantum yield of photosynthesis (φm) for 7 out of the 8 phytoplankton clusters identified, while negative relationships between mean mixed layer photosynthetically active radiation and φm and the light limited slope of photosynthesis (αB) were observed for 4 clusters, as a result of nutrient limitation and photo-protection. The highest photosynthetic rates were associated with a pico & nanophytoplankton communities, which increased from spring to late summer as stratification intensified. By contrast, diatom communities had the lowest photosynthetic rates throughout the year. These successional patterns in the dominant phytoplankton size-class and phenology support Margalef's mandala in terms of the relationship between turbulence and community structure. The study sheds new light on assemblages dominated by smaller cells, under warm, stratified conditions, having higher photosynthetic efficiencies, which has implications for the carbon flux in the NW Atlantic.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Subjects: Biology
Ecology and Environment
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > Science Areas > Earth Observation Science and Applications
Depositing User: Gavin Tilstone
Date made live: 27 Nov 2018 11:51
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2020 01:58
URI: https://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/8050

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