MEPS 233:21-30 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps233021

Large-scale variability of planktonic net community metabolism in the Atlantic Ocean: importance of temporal changes in oligotrophic subtropical waters

Natalia González1,*, Ricardo Anadón1, Emilio Marañón2

1Universidad de Oviedo, Departamento de Biología de Organismos y Sistemas. Área de Ecología, C/Catedrático Rodrigo Uría s/n, 33071 Oviedo, Spain
2Universidade de Vigo, Departamento de Ecoloxía e Bioloxía Animal, 36200 Vigo, Spain

ABSTRACT: We used the oxygen method (dark and light bottles) to study photic-layer-integrated microbial metabolism along a latitudinal transect in the Atlantic Ocean (50°S to 50°N) during May and October 1997. The temperate region was more productive than the other oceanic environments, showing a net autotrophic balance (gross primary production/total respiration, GPP/R = 1.41 ± 0.34; mean ± SE). The GPP/R ratio in the upwelling regions was close to 1 (GPP/R = 1.32 ± 0.41), whereas in subtropical, oligotrophic environments it tended to be lower than 1 (GPP/R = 0.83 ± 0.27). The south oligotrophic gyre showed a higher organic carbon deficit (-235 ± 167 mmol O2 m-2 d-1) than the north oligotrophic gyre (-77 ± 162 mmol O2 m-2 d-1). The occurrence and extent of net heterotrophic metabolism in the oligotrophic ocean (north and south subtropical gyres) are not constant and can vary as a response to seasonal variations in physical forcing. The degree of nutrient limitation is a critical factor in the control of the microbial community metabolism in the oligotrophic regions of the open ocean. Relatively weak variations in the structure of the water column in the subtropical gyres may have a major impact on the metabolic functioning of the pelagic ecosystem.

KEY WORDS: Microplankton respiration · Gross primary production · GPP/R balance · Nutrient status · Oligotrophy · Atlantic Ocean

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