MEPS 317:21-28 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps317021

Phosphorus dynamics of the tropical and subtropical north Atlantic: Trichodesmium spp. versus bulk plankton

Jill A. Sohm*, Douglas G. Capone

Department of Biological Sciences and Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA

ABSTRACT: Nitrogen fixing organisms such as Trichodesmium spp. are abundant in the oligotrophic tropical North Atlantic Ocean, where microplankton (including other diazotrophs) are more likely to be phosphorus (P) than nitrogen (N) limited. Thus, understanding the ability of different functional groups in the plankton to compete for P in this area is important for understanding their relative success. The uptake of phosphate by Trichodesmium spp. colonies and bulk water plankton was measured using 33PO43– over a range of concentrations, and kinetic parameters were determined. Nano- and pico-plankton present in bulk water samples have a Ks that is nearly 30 times lower than that of Trichodesmium spp. While chl a-normalized alkaline phosphatase activity (APA) in bulk water was an order of magnitude greater than in Trichodesmium spp., Trichodesmium spp. contributes substantially to total APA in the water. Trichodesmium spp. is outcompeted for dissolved inorganic P (DIP), but colonies can satisfy their P needs by supplementing DIP uptake with P cleaved from dissolved organic P (DOP) via alkaline phosphatase.

KEY WORDS: Phosphorus · Phosphate · Nitrogen fixation · Trichodesmium · North Atlantic

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