Competition for inorganic and organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorous between phytoplankton and bacteria during an Emiliania huxleyi spring bloom (PeECE II)

Løvdal et al.

Using 15N and 33P, we measured the turnover of organic and inorganic nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) substrates, and the partitioning of N and P from these sources into two size fractions of marine osmotrophs during the course of a phytoplankton bloom in a nutrient manipulated mesocosm.

The larger size fraction (>0.8 μm), mainly consisting of the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi, but also including an increasing amount of large particle-associated bacteria as the bloom proceeded, dominated uptake of the inorganic forms NH4+, NO3, and PO43. The uptake of N from leucine, and P from ATP and dissolved DNA (dDNA), was initially dominated by the 0.8–0.2 μm size fraction, but shifted towards dominance by the >0.8 μm size fraction as the system turned to an increasing degree of N-deficiency. Normalizing uptake to biomass of phytoplankton and heterotrophic bacteria revealed that organisms in the 0.8–0.2 μm size fraction had higher specific affinity for leucine-N than those in the >0.8 μm size fraction when N was deficient, whereas the opposite was the case for NH4+. There was no such difference regarding the specific affinity for P substrates. Since heterotrophic bacteria seem to acquire N from organic compounds like leucine more efficiently than phytoplankton, our results suggest different structuring of the microbial food chain in N-limited relative to P-limited environments.

Løvdal, T., Eichner, C., Grossart, H.-P., Carbonnel, V., Chou, L., and Thingstad, T. F.: Competition for inorganic and organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorous between phytoplankton and bacteria during an Emiliania huxleyi spring bloom (PeECE II), Biogeosciences Discuss., 4, 3343-3375, 2007. Article.

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