Impact of growth phase, pigment adaptation and climate change conditions on the cellular pigment and carbon content of fifty-one phytoplankton isolates

Owing to their importance in aquatic ecosystems, the demand for models that estimate phytoplankton biomass and community composition in the global ocean has increased over the last decade. Moreover, the impacts of climate change, including elevated carbon dioxide (CO2), increased stratification and warmer sea surface temperatures, will likely shape phytoplankton community composition in the global ocean. Chemotaxonomic methods are useful for modeling phytoplankton community composition from marker pigments normalized to Chlorophyll a (Chl a). However, photosynthetic pigments, particularly Chl a, are sensitive to nutrient and light conditions. Cellular carbon is less sensitive so using carbon biomass instead may provide an alternative approach. To this end, cellular pigment and carbon concentrations were measured in fifty-one strains of globally relevant, cultured phytoplankton. Pigment-to-Chl a and pigment-to-carbon ratios were computed for each strain. For twenty-five strains, measurements were taken during two growth phases. While some differences between growth phases were observed, they did not exceed within-class differences. Multiple strains of Amphidinium carteraeDitylum brightwellii and Heterosigma akashiwo were measured to determine whether time in culture influenced pigment and carbon composition. No appreciable trends in cellular pigment or carbon content were observed. Lastly, the potential impact of climate change conditions on the pigment ratios was assessed using a multistressor experiment that included increased mean light, temperature and elevated pCO2 on three species: Thalassiosira oceanicaOstreococcus lucimarinus and Synechococcus. The largest differences were observed in the pigment-to-carbon ratios, while the marker pigments largely covaried with Chl a. The implications of these observations to chemotaxonomic applications are discussed.

Neeley A. R., Lomas M. W., Mannino A., Thomas C. & Vandermeulen R., in press. Impact of growth phase, pigment adaptation and climate change conditions on the cellular pigment and carbon content of fifty-one phytoplankton isolates. Journal of Phycology. Article (subscription required).

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