MEPS 333:129-142 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps333129

Evidence for reduced biogenic silica dissolution rates in diatom aggregates

B. Moriceau1,2,*, M. Garvey1, O. Ragueneau2, U. Passow1

1Biogeoscience, Alfred Wegener Institut, am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
2UMR 6539, IUEM, Technopôle Brest-Iroise, 29280 Plouzané, France

ABSTRACT: Because aggregated diatoms sink rapidly through the water column, leaving little time for dissolution, aggregation influences the balance between recycling of biogenic silica (bSiO2) and its sedimentation and preservation at the seafloor. Additionally, aggregation may directly impact dissolution rates of opal. Laboratory experiments were conducted to investigate the influence of aggregation on bSiO2 dissolution rates using 3 different batch cultures of the diatoms Chaetoceros decipiens, Skeletonema costatum, and Thalassiosira weissflogii. Specific dissolution rates of bSiO2 of aggregated and freely suspended diatoms were compared. Additionally, the influences of the dissolved silicon (dSi) concentration in the pore water of aggregates, the viability of diatoms, and the concentrations of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and of bacteria on bSiO2 dissolution rates were determined. Initial specific dissolution rates of diatom frustules were significantly lower for aggregated diatoms (2.9% d–1) than for freely suspended diatoms (6.6% d–1). Lower specific dissolution rates in aggregates were attributed to elevated dSi concentrations in aggregate pore water (maximum 230 vs. 20 µmol l–1) and to the fact that aggregated diatoms remained viable for longer than freely suspended diatoms. Specific bSiO2 dissolution was significantly correlated to viability of cells independent of treatment. Bacterial concentrations in both treatments appeared high enough, so that after cell death the coating protecting the silica frustule was degraded without measurable delay. The TEP content of aggregates appeared to affect dissolution rates, possibly by retaining solutes within aggregates.

KEY WORDS: Diatom aggregate · Biogenic silica dissolution · Silica recycling · Marine snow · Viability · Aggregate pore water

Full text in pdf format