MEPS 400:115-125 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08405

Diatom flotation at the onset of the spring phytoplankton bloom: an in situ experiment

José Luis Acuña1,*, Márcos López-Alvarez1, Enrique Nogueira2, Fernando González-Taboada1

1Departamento de Biología de Organismos y Sistemas, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo 33071, Spain
2Centro Oceanográfico de Gijón, Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Gijón 33212, Spain

ABSTRACT: We used a new type of sediment trap to conduct an in situ test on the buoyancy properties of diatoms before and during the growth phase of the spring phytoplankton bloom (SPB). Diatoms shifted from a sinking pattern before the bloom, while their populations were not growing, to a neutrally buoyant pattern during bloom development, when calm conditions prevailed, light was abundant and phytoplankton were actively growing. This shift was mainly due to the upward motion of centric diatoms during the growth phase. Our field experiment confirms laboratory experiments and field observations showing that diatoms, the paradigm of sinking phytoplankton, approach neutral buoyancy when conditions are adequate for growth, a fact that is not taken into account in most SPB and phytoplankton dynamics models.

KEY WORDS: Diatom · Spring bloom · Buoyancy

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Cite this article as: Acuña JL, López-Alvarez M, Nogueira E, González-Taboada F (2010) Diatom flotation at the onset of the spring phytoplankton bloom: an in situ experiment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 400:115-125

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