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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 206:87-95 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps206087

Effect of nutrient supply on the biomass structure of planktonic communities: an experimental test on a Mediterranean coastal community

Carlos M. Duarte1,*, Susana Agustí1, Josep M. Gasol2, Dolors Vaqué2, Evaristo Vazquez-Dominguez2

1Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (IMEDEA), CSIC-Universitat de les Illes Balears, c/ Miguel Marqués, 21, 07190 Esporles (Mallorca), Spain
2Institut de Ciencies del Mar, CSIC, Passeig Joan de Borbó s/n, 08039 Barcelona, Spain

ABSTRACT: The hypothesis that increasing nutrient supply increases the biomass of autotrophs proportionately more than the biomass of heterotrophs was tested by increasing (0, 1-, 2-, 4-, 8-, and 16-fold over the background loading of 5 mmol N m-2 d-1, 1.6 mmol Si m-2 d-1, and 0.25 mmol P m-2 d-1) the addition of nutrients to large (33000 l) mesocosm units enclosing an oligotrophic coastal Mediterranean planktonic community. Autotrophic plankton biomass increased 50-fold along the range of nutrient inputs, whereas heterotrophic biomass increased only 10-fold. Heterotrophic biomass increased as the 1Ž5 power of the increase in the biomass of autotrophs, implying that the ratio of heterotroph to autotroph biomass (HB/AB ratio) declined rapidly as the biomass of autotrophs increases with increasing nutrient inputs. The biomass distribution within the community shifted from an Œinverted pyramid¹ distribution, involving greater biomass of heterotrophs than that of autotrophs, at low nutrient inputs, to the conventional Œupward¹ pyramid pattern, where the biomass of autotrophs exceeds that of consumers, at the highest nutrient inputs. This shift stabilized after 4 d, and the pyramids remained quite constant for the rest of the experiment. The experimental test presented supports the hypothesis that the relative biomass distribution between heterotrophs and autotrophs is regulated by nutrient supply.

KEY WORDS: Mediterranean · Plankton · Biomass distribution · Autotrophs · Heterotrophs · Nutrient inputs · Mesocosm

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