Marine phytoplankton is generally defined as the unicellular photoautrophic algae that “wander” drifted by the water body movements. This group accounts for 45% of the annual net carbon fixed by photosynthesis on the Earth, although they represent less than 1% of the photoautotroph biomass. Taxonomically, marine phytoplankton is an umbrella term that includes organisms fairly different from an evolutionary perspective from prokaryote cells, Cyanophyta, as well as eukaryotic organisms belonging to eight major divisions or phyla. They are Haptophyta, Cryptophyta, Bacillariophyta, Chlorophyta, Chrysophyceae, Dictyophycea, Xanthophycea, and Dinophycea. Other common features of the phytoplankton communities, tightly linked to the coexistence of multiple species, is that their abundance distribution follows a power function of the cell mass. One of the main features of the phytoplankton communities is their elevated spatial and temporal variability in comparison to their terrestrial counterparts.
Salles S. & Mercado J. M., in press. Biodiversity distribution patterns of marine phytoplankton and their main threats (climate change, eutrophication and acidification). In: Encyclopedia of Marine Biotechnology (Ed: Kim P. S.-K.). Book chapter (subscription required).