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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 126:247-265 (1995)  -  doi:10.3354/meps126247

Production and downward flux of organic matter and calcite in a North Sea bloom of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi

Van der Wal P, Kempers RS, Veldhuis MJW

In July 1993, an extensive study was made of a large bloom of the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi in the North Sea halfway between the Shetland Islands and Norway. Here we report on the hydrography, production and sedimentation of particulate organic carbon (POC) and calcite carbon (calcite-C) at 4 stations occupied for 24 h, 2 inside the bloom and 2 just outside. The coccolithophorid bloom was confined to North Sea waters, where a stable shallow mixed layer had been formed. Bloom development had entered the decaying phase, judged by the relatively low living cell number (maximally 1200 cells cm-3), the high number of loose coccoliths (up to 350000 coccoliths cm-3), and the fact that sedimentation of calcite-C exceeded production. In the top 15 m at the bloom stations, the mean daily production of coccoliths was 17 per cell. At the 2 stations outside the bloom, the dominant coccolithophore was a holococcolithophorid (up to 1400 cells cm-3), with insignificant amounts of calcite produced per cell. At these stations, nutrients were present in non-limiting concentrations and production of POC was twice as high as at the bloom stations. In the bloom, mixed layer nitrate levels were below 0.2 uM. Faecal pellets collected in the sediment traps contained large numbers of coccoliths of E. huxleyi. Although the numbers of grazers at the 2 stations outside the bloom were not lower than those in the bloom, the volume of faecal matter sedimenting at 50 m was about 70 times lower. It is hypothesized that faecal pellets outside the bloom were so light in weight that they did not sink very far before degradation, whereas the pellets produced in the E. huxleyi bloom in general were exported rapidly due to their heavy load of calcite. This implies that recycling of materials in the mixed layer of this bloom is relatively low due to high downward flux rate. The ratio at which POC and calcite-C were sedimenting amounted to 1.3 on average for the 2 bloom stations at 50 m water depth.

Emiliania huxleyi . Coccoliths . Primary production . Calcification . Calcite dissolution . Sedimentation . Faecal pellets . North Sea

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