The ecology, biogeochemistry, and optical properties of coccolithophores

Coccolithophores are major contributors to phytoplankton communities and ocean biogeochemistry and are strong modulators of the optical field in the sea. New discoveries are changing paradigms about these calcifiers. A new role for silicon in coccolithophore calcification is coupling carbonate and silicon cycles. Phosphorus and iron play key roles in regulating coccolithophore growth. Comparing molecular phylogenies with coccolith morphometrics is forcing the reconciliation of biological and geological observations. Mixotrophy may be a possible life strategy for deep-dwelling species, which has ramifications for biological pump and alkalinity pump paradigms. Climate, ocean temperatures, and pH appear to be affecting coccolithophores in unexpected ways. Global calcification is approximately 1–3% of primary productivity and affects CO2 budgets. New measurements of the backscattering cross section of coccolithophores have improved satellite-based algorithms and their application in case I and case II optical waters. Remote sensing has allowed the detection of basin-scale coccolithophore features in the Southern Ocean.

Balch W. M., 2018. The ecology, biogeochemistry, and optical properties of coccolithophores. Annual Review of Marine Science 10: 71-98. Article (subscription required).


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