MEPS 262:97-109 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps262097

Transparent exopolymer particle (TEP) dynamics in relation to trophic and hydrological conditions in the NW Mediterranean Sea

S. Beauvais, M. L. Pedrotti*, E. Villa, R. Lemée

Marine Microbial Ecology Group, LOV, UMR 7093-CNRS, Observatoire Océanologique, BP 28, Villefranche-sur-Mer 06234 Cedex, France
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Seasonal abundance, volume, size distribution and carbon content of transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP) were examined in 2 hydrologically distinct sites in the NW Mediterranean (NWM) Sea: a coastal (Point B, Villefranche Bay) and an offshore (DYFAMED, France, JGOFS) site. TEP concentration varied from 0.2 to 2.2 × 105 particles ml-1, and was higher offshore. The TEP pool was low during the winter mesotrophic period and increased after the spring bloom, remaining relatively high throughout summer at both sites. The increase in TEP abundance during the oligotrophic period was relatable to nitrate limitation and a decline in primary production. TEP formation in spring was associated to a nanoflagellate bloom, while the build-up of a large pool of TEP in summer occurred in the presence of a phytoplankton community dominated by picoplankters and during strong thermal stratification, limiting vertical sedimentation. In the NWM Sea, when the TEP carbon pool (TEP-C) is high, it may represent up to 22% of the total organic carbon, and reach down to 1% when it is low, suggesting that the particles play a significant role in the carbon cycle. In the NWM Sea, the trophic status of the system and the composition of primary producers control TEP formation. Hydrological processes appear to be of primary importance in governing seasonal TEP distribution.

KEY WORDS: Transparent exopolymer particles · TEP · POC · DOC · Oligotrophy · Hydrological processes

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