AME 29:63-72 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/ame029063

Combined effects of nutrients and small-scale turbulence in a microcosm experiment. II. Dynamics of organic matter and phosphorus

Marie Maar1,*, Laura Arin2, Rafel Simó2, Maria-Montserrat Sala2, Francesc Peters2, Cèlia Marrasé2

1National Environmental Research Institute, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
2Institut de Ciències del Mar (CMIMA-CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

ABSTRACT: In the oligotrophic sea, phytoplankton and bacteria compete for nutrients. Turbulence changes the outcome of this competition by means of an increase in the nutrient flux to cells by the shear fields, which is cell-size dependent. This effect is insignificant for small cells such as natural bacteria. The hypothesis is that turbulence will increase the phytoplankton competition-capability for nutrients and reduce the organic matter utilisation by bacteria. Consequently, the composition of particulate organic matter should change. To test this hypothesis, we studied the response of natural plankton communities to turbulence enclosed in 15 l microcosms. We evaluated the response in terms of the ratio of heterotrophic:total biomass and the stoichiometry of particulate organic matter. Results under turbulent and still conditions were compared in 3 nutrient-induced conditions: nitrogen surplus (N, with initial addition of an excess of nitrogen, N:P ratio = 160), nitrogen:phosphorus ratio balanced (NP, with initial addition of nitrogen and phosphorus as Redfield ratio, N:P ratio = 16) and control (C, no nutrient addition). In N and NP conditions, turbulence decreased the heterotrophic:total biomass ratio up to 2-fold, and induced changes in the stoichiometry of the particulate organic matter. We found higher values of carbon:phosphorus and nitrogen:phosphorus ratios in turbulent than in still treatments. The magnitude of these responses to turbulence depended on the induced nutrient conditions. In the control microcosms, we found the maximum differences of carbon:phosphorus ratio between turbulence and still treatments. In terms of biomass, the response to turbulence was clear in the enriched conditions and insignificant in the control microcosms.

KEY WORDS: Small-scale turbulence · Phosphorus · Particulate organic matter stoichiometry · Microcosms

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