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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 125:279-291 (1995)  -  doi:10.3354/meps125279

Distribution, sedimentation and fate of pigment biomarkers following thermal stratification in the western Alboran Sea

Barlow RG, Mantoura RFC, Peinert RD, Miller AEJ, Fileman TW

A spring investigation of the phytoplankton in the western Alboran Sea (Mediterranean) was undertaken using chlorophyll and carotenoid biomarkers to characterize the community in the water column and in drifting sediment traps set at 100 and 200 m. During 2 drifter experiments, calm and sunny conditions induced a progressive thermal stratification that reduced pigment sedimentation into deeper water and confined the phytoplankton to the surface layer, resulting in an increase in chlorophyll biomass. 19'-Hexanoyloxyfucoxanthin (prymnesiophytes) and chlorophyll b (chlorophytes, prasinophytes, prochlorophytes) were the major accessory pigments, while fucoxanthin, alloxanthin and peridinin indicated the presence of diatoms, cryptophytes and dinoflagellates, respectively. The proportional contribution of each algal group to the chlorophyll a (chl a) biomass, as derived from multiple regression analysis, revealed that prymnesiophytes, cryptophytes and the green algal group collectively accounted for at least 75% in the upper 100 m, emphasizing the importance of the nanophytoplankton. Phaeopigments, dominated by phaeophorbide a2, were the main pigments observed in sediment traps, although chl a, fucoxanthin and 19'-hexanoyloxyfucoxanthin were detected in smaller concentrations as well as traces of chlorophyll b (chl b). In deep water, fucoxanthin and 19'-hexanoyloxyfucoxanthin were the only accessory pigments present while total phaeopigment/chl a molar ratios >1 reflected the active transformation of fine phytogenic material at depth. High particulate organic carbon (POC)/chl a ratios (>100 in surface water; >1000 in deep water) suggested that phytoplankton was a relatively small component of the total carbon biomass down the water column. Using simple budget calculations, we determined that 58 to 65% of the chl a produced in the upper 100 m accumulated in the water column over both experiments. During Expt 1, 29% of the chl a sedimented out, mostly as phaeopigment, at 100 m (24%), and 6% was degraded to colourless residues in the water column. In contrast, only 12% of the chl a sedimented in Expt 2, while 20% was degraded to colourless residues.

Pigment biomarkers . Distribution . Sedimentation . Alboran Sea

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