AME 42:243-253 (2006) - doi:10.3354/ame042243
Plasticity of N:P ratios in laboratory and field populations of Trichodesmium spp.
Jamie M. Krauk1,5, Tracy A. Villareal2, Jill A. Sohm3, Joseph P. Montoya4, Douglas G. Capone3,*
ABSTRACT: We followed changes in N:P ratios in batch cultures of the planktonic marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium (IMS 101) grown in 2 different media and in field populations from 4 different oceanic regions. Cultures grown on low P media showed a rapid rise in N:P ratio upon depletion of phosphate. Ratios exceeding 125 were reached in 1 experiment before attaining stationary phase. A transect across the North Atlantic Ocean along 32°N showed a monotonic decrease in the N:P ratio of field collected colonies, dropping from about 60:1 on the western side of the basin to about 30:1 on the eastern side. A second cruise sampled colonies and surface slicks in waters along the north coast of Australia, where ratios of N:P were generally lower than in the North Atlantic, ranging from 11:1 to 47:1 with an average of 22:1. A comparison of rising and sinking colonies collected at 8 stations in the Gulf of Mexico shows a higher mean N:P ratio among sinking colonies than floating colonies. Overall, the average N:P in the Gulf of Mexico was about 68:1. N:P ratios of Trichodesmium around the Hawaiian Islands were very consistent between 2 consecutive years of sampling, with an average colony N:P for both years of about 38:1. Our research demonstrates high variability in the cellular N:P in Trichodesmium both in the laboratory and in the field. Trichodesmium N:P ratio may provide an index to the relative severity of P limitation in these diazotrophs. Geochemical and ecological modeling efforts which rely on using the N:P ratio of diazotrophs in deriving nitrogen fixation rates should account for the variability of these ratios in situ.
KEY WORDS: Trichodesmium · N:P ratio · Nitrogen fixation · Diazotroph · Cyanobacteria
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