MEPS 346:15-26 (2007)  -  DOI:

Vertical variability and diel dynamics of picophytoplankton in the Strait of Sicily, Mediterranean Sea, in summer

Christophe Brunet1,*, Raffaella Casotti1, Vincent Vantrepotte2, Fabio Conversano1

1Stazione Zoologica di Napoli, Villa Comunale, 80121 Napoli, Italy
2DG Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Global Environment Monitoring Unit, 21020 Ispra, Italy

ABSTRACT: Phytoplankton pigment diversity and photoacclimation during the natural day–night cycle was investigated at a fixed location in the Strait of Sicily in July 1997 using HPLC pigment analysis on fractionated samples (<3 and >3 µm) and flow cytometry. Picophytoplankton dominated phytoplankton biomass in terms of chl a with an average value of 57% and was mainly represented by prokaryotes, prymnesiophytes and pelagophytes. Prochlorococcus and picoeukaryotes contributed equally to the picophytoplankton in terms of chl a, but Prochlorococcus were numerically more abundant and were represented by 2 ecotypes, one replacing the other according to depth. Larger phytoplankton were dominated by prymnesiophytes and diatoms. Photoacclimation was evident from changes in pigment content and strongly increased with depth. The deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM), present between 75 and 90 m, showed a diverse and rich phytoplankton community with the 2 size classes almost equally represented. Growth rates of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus, estimated from cell cycle measurements, were 0.67 and 0.41 d–1, respectively, at 75 m. Only Prochlorococcus was able to sustain a good growth rate of 0.43 d–1 at the base of the DCM (90 m) where only 0.5% of incident light was available. Light-shift experiments using onboard incubated natural seawater showed much faster kinetic coefficients for acclimation in picophytoplankton than in larger algae. In general, the data describe the dynamics of picophytoplankton and its light adaptation through the water column and in the DCM, and can be considered representative of stable summer conditions in the Mediterranean Sea.

KEY WORDS: Picophytoplankton · DCM · Pigments · Flow cytometry · Photoadaptation · Vertical variability · Diel variability

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Cite this article as: Brunet C, Casotti R, Vantrepotte V, Conversano F (2007) Vertical variability and diel dynamics of picophytoplankton in the Strait of Sicily, Mediterranean Sea, in summer. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 346:15-26.

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