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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 515:61-71 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11007

Distinct patterns in the size-scaling of abundance and metabolism in coastal and open-ocean phytoplankton communities

M. Huete-Ortega1,5,*, T. Rodríguez-Ramos2, D. C. López-Sandoval2,3, P. Cermeño3, J. M. Blanco4, R. L. Palomino4, J. Rodríguez4, E. Marañón2

1School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK
2Departamento de Ecoloxía y Bioloxía Animal, Universidade de Vigo, 36210 Vigo, Spain
3Instituto de Ciencias del Mar, Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
4Departamento de Ecología y Geología, Universidad de Málaga, 29071 Málaga, Spain
5Present address: Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 3DJ, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This study was aimed at identifying macroecological patterns in the relationship between phytoplankton cell size, abundance and metabolism in 2 marine ecosystems characterised by marked differences in resource availability and water-column stability. Several patterns emerged: (1) nearly isometric size-scaling of phytoplankton carbon fixation rate was described for both open-ocean and coastal ecosystems (mean slope: 1.17 and 0.90, respectively), supporting the idea that biomass-specific photosynthesis rates are largely independent of cell size; (2) less steep values for the size-scaling of abundance (mean slope: -0.73) were found in the coastal ecosystem compared to the open ocean (mean slope: -1.15); (3) large phytoplankton used more photosynthetic energy than smaller cells in the coastal ecosystem, but a constant flow of energy along the size spectrum was found in the open ocean; and (4) phytoplankton biomass turnover rates were 1 order of magnitude higher in the coastal ecosystem than in the open ocean, implying physiological limitation of phytoplankton growth in the oligotrophic ocean. Bottom-up and top-down mechanisms and their interaction with nutrient supply dynamics were suggested as major factors determining the contrasting phytoplankton size abundance distributions observed in coastal and open-ocean waters.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Cell size · Metabolism · Size-scaling · Abundance · Growth rate


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Cite this article as: Huete-Ortega M, Rodríguez-Ramos T, López-Sandoval DC, Cermeño P and others (2014) Distinct patterns in the size-scaling of abundance and metabolism in coastal and open-ocean phytoplankton communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 515:61-71. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11007

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