Relating phytoplankton photophysiological properties to community structure on large scales

Uitz, Julia, Yannick Huot, Flavienne Bruyant, Marcel Babin, Hervé Claustre

Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(2), 2008, 614-630 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.2.0614

ABSTRACT: We analyzed a large dataset of simultaneous measurements of phytoplankton pigments, spectral specific absorption coefficient for phytoplankton [a*(l)], and photosynthesis versus irradiance (P versus E) curve parameters to examine the possible relationships between phytoplankton community structure and photophysiological properties at large spatial scales. Data were collected in various regions, mostly covering the trophic gradient encountered in the world’s open ocean. The community composition is described in terms of biomass of three phytoplankton classes, determined using specific biomarker pigments. We present a general empirical model that describes the dependence of algal photophysiology on both the community composition and the relative irradiance within the water column (essentially reflecting photoacclimation). The application of the model to the in situ dataset enables the identification of vertical profiles of photophysiological properties for each phytoplankton class. The class-specific a*(l) obtained are consistent with results from the literature and with previous models developed for small and large cells, both in terms of the absolute values and the vertical patterns. Similarly, for the class-specific P versus E curve parameters, the magnitude and vertical distribution obtained with this method are coherent with previous observations. Large cells (mainly diatoms) may be more efficient in carbon storage than smaller cells, whereas their yield of light absorption is lower. We anticipate that such photophysiological parameterizations can improve primary production models by providing estimates of primary production that are specific to different phytoplankton classes on large scale.

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