MEPS 273:31-42 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/meps273031

Routine quantification of phytoplankton groups‹microscopy or pigment analyses?

Harry Havskum1,*, Louise Schlüter2, Renate Scharek3, Elisa Berdalet3, Stéphan Jacquet4

1Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Copenhagen, Strandpromenaden 5, 3000 Helsingør, Denmark
2The International Agency for 14C Determination, DHI Water & Environment, Agern Allé 5, 2970 Hørsholm, Denmark
3Institut de Ciències del Mar, CMIMA-CSIC, Passeig Marítim 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
4UMR CARRTEL, Equipe de Microbiologie Aquatique, station INRA d¹Hydrobiologie Lacustre, 75 Avenue de Corzent, BP 511, 74203 Thonon Cedex, France

ABSTRACT: Phytoplankton pigments in samples taken from nutrient-enriched and non-enriched 3 m3 seawater enclosures were separated and quantified using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The enclosures were with and without inorganic (N, P, Si) and organic (glucose, C) nutrient enrichments, resulting in a variation of phytoplankton groups in time and space. The relative contribution of the major phytoplankton groups to the total chlorophyll a (i.e. chlorophyll a plus chlorophyllide a) was estimated by the CHEMTAX program. The results were compared to phytoplankton groups identified and quantified by light and epifluorescence microscopy. For the pigmented flagellate groups the results obtained by microscopy and pigment analyses using the CHEMTAX program showed similar trends. The picocyanobacteria were readily quantified by microscopy and the results were similar to those obtained by flow-cytometry, while the CHEMTAX program for the cyanobacteria revealed different trends. Microscopy and pigment analyses provided similar trends in diatom population development. Estimated diatom contributions to total phytoplankton biomass, however, were considerably higher when based on microscopy than when based on the CHEMTAX program, especially in Si-amended enclosures. Total chlorophyll a:carbon ratios for diatoms were at the lower end of a previously reported range between 1:27 and 1:67. For the pigmented flagellate groups the total chlorophyll a:carbon ratios were above that range. In routine monitoring of phytoplankton we recommend the use of the CHEMTAX program based on HPLC pigment analyses accompanied by a screening for the dominating species by microscopy, and by flow-cytometry for quantification of picocyanobacteria.


KEY WORDS: HPLC pigment analyses · CHEMTAX program · Microscopy · Chlorophyllide a · Chlorophyll a:carbon ratios · Pigmented flagellates · Cyanobacteria · Diatoms


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