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MEPS 183:59-71 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps183059

Carbon content and C:N ratio of transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP) produced by bubbling exudates of diatoms

Xavier Mari*

Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Marine and Coastal Ecology, Kavalergården 6, DK-2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark
*Present address: Observatoire Océanologique, CNRS ESA 7076, Université Paris 6, INSU, La Darse, F-06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: The carbon content of transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP) was measured in the laboratory in particles produced by bubbling exudates of the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii, grown under nitrogen non-limited conditions (N:P = 7). The carbon content of these particles (TEP-C) appears to vary as a function of their size according to TEP-C = 0.25 x 10-6 r2.55 (µg C TEP-1), where r is the equivalent spherical radius of the TEP particle (µm). This relationship implies that TEP are fractal aggregates having a fractal dimension D = 2.55. When this value was applied to historical TEP size spectra from a coastal area (Kattegat, Denmark), TEP carbon concentration in the surface mixed layer was on the order of 230 ± 150 µg C l-1. This is high relative to other sources of particulate organic carbon (e.g. phytoplankton) and depending on TEP turnover rates, suggests that TEP is an important pathway for dissolved organic carbon in coastal seas. The carbon to nitrogen ratio of TEP was measured from particles formed by bubbling exudates of the diatoms T. weissflogii, Skeletonema costatum, Chaetoceros neogracile and C. affinis. Each of these diatom species was grown under various N:P ratios, from N-non-limited to N-limited conditions. While the C:N ratio of the diatom cells grown under N-limited conditions was high (C:N >= 14), the TEP aggregates formed by coagulation of the extracellular release produced by these cells exhibited a C:N ratio relatively constant (C:N = 7.3 ± 2.6) and apparently independent from that of the cells.

KEY WORDS: TEP · Carbon · C:N ratio · Bubbling

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