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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 201:27-42 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps201027

Biological response to iron fertilization in the eastern equatorial Pacific (IronEx II). I. Microplankton community abundances and biomass

M. R. Landry1,*, M. E. Ondrusek2, S. J. Tanner3, S. L. Brown1, J. Constantinou1, R. R. Bidigare1,4, K. H. Coale3, S. Fitzwater5

1Department of Oceanography, University of Hawai¹i at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawai¹i 96822, USA
2DOC/NOAA/NESDIS, E/RA30, 5200 Auth Rd. Camp Springs, Maryland 20746, USA
3Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, PO Box 450, Moss Landing, California 96039, USA
4Hawai¹i Institute of Marine Biology, PO Box 1346, Kaneohe, Hawai¹i 96744, USA
5MBARI, PO Box 628, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA

ABSTRACT: During the IronEx II experiment in the eastern equatorial Pacific (May to June 1995), the response of the microplankton community to mesoscale iron fertilization was followed using a combination of marker-pigment, microscopical and flow cytometric techniques. Phytoplankton standing stock bloomed dramatically over a period of 6 d following 3 iron additions of 2 and 1 nM, respectively. Carbon biomass in the patch increased by a factor of 4, chlorophyll a by about a factor of 16 and diatoms by >70 fold relative to contemporaneous levels in the ambient community. The bloom then plateaued sharply and remained at a more or less constant level for 4 d, despite the addition of more iron (1 nM) and physiological indices (low C:chl a ratio and elevated photochemical quantum efficiency) suggesting that the cells were healthy and growing rapidly. Relatively large pennate diatoms (Nitzschia spp., median length 20 to 24 µm) dominated the patch bloom, with smaller pennate species and centric diatoms declining in relative importance. Heterotrophic bacteria increased at a slow rate (0.08 d-1) for >10 d during the experiment, as did heterotrophic nanoflagellates. There were also indications of enhanced cell size, cellular pigment content and possibly growth rates of small phytoplankton. Nonetheless, little difference was observed between the ambient community and the peak patch bloom with respect to the size composition of auto- and heterotrophic populations <10 µm in cell size. The relative constancy of the smaller size fractions, the sharp curtailment of net growth of the bloom after 6 d, and >3-fold increase in large heterotrophic dinoflagellates and ciliates suggest that protistan grazers may have played an active role in controlling the phytoplankton response to increased iron availability.

KEY WORDS: Diatom · Bloom · Phytoplankton pigments · Carbon:chlorophyll · Size structure · Heterotrophic protists

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