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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 73:195-210 (2014)  -  DOI:

Extracellular organic carbon dynamics during a bottom-ice algal bloom (Antarctica)

Sarah C. Ugalde1,2,*, Andrew Martin3, Klaus M. Meiners1,4, Andrew McMinn2, Ken G. Ryan3

1Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Private Bag 80, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
3School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
4Australian Antarctic Division, Department of the Environment, 203 Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Antarctic fast ice provides a habitat for diverse microbial communities, the biomass of which is mostly dominated by diatoms capable of growing to high standing stocks, particularly at the ice-water interface. While it is known that ice algae exude organic carbon in ecologically significant quantities, the mechanisms behind its distribution and composition are not well understood. This study investigated extracellular organic carbon dynamics, microbial characteristics, and ice algal photophysiology during a bottom-ice algal bloom at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Over a 2 wk period (November to December 2011), ice within 15 cm from the ice-water interface was collected and sliced into 9 discrete sections. Over the observational period, the total concentrations of extracellular organic carbon components (dissolved organic carbon [DOC] and total carbohydrates [TCHO]—the  sum of monosaccharides [CHOMono] and polysaccharides [CHOPoly]) increased, and were positively correlated with algal biomass. However, when normalised to chlorophyll a, the proportion of extracellular organic carbon components substantially decreased from initial measurements. Concentrations of DOC generally consisted of <20% TCHO, typically dominated by CHOMono, which decreased from initial measurements. This change was coincident with improved algal photophysiology (maximum quantum yield) and an increase in sea-ice brine volume fraction, indicating an increased capacity for fluid transport between the brine channel matrix and the underlying sea water. Our study supports the suggestion that microbial exudation of organic carbon within the sea-ice habitat is associated with vertical and temporal changes in brine physicochemistry.

KEY WORDS: Antarctica · Carbohydrates · Dissolved organic carbon · Microalgae · Nutrient limitation · Photophysiology · Sea ice

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Cite this article as: Ugalde SC, Martin A, Meiners KM, McMinn A, Ryan KG (2014) Extracellular organic carbon dynamics during a bottom-ice algal bloom (Antarctica). Aquat Microb Ecol 73:195-210.

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