Pelagic community responses to changes in N:P stoichiometry in the Eastern Tropical Atlantic and Pacific

Hauss, Helena (2012) Pelagic community responses to changes in N:P stoichiometry in the Eastern Tropical Atlantic and Pacific (Doctoral thesis/PhD), Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Kiel, Germany, 133 pp

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Abstract

Recent studies indicate that the tropical ocean is losing oxygen. This becomes crucial in regions adjacent to eastern boundary currents, as the productivity of these systems is already accompanied by oxygen minimum zones (OMZ) at depth below the photic zone. The extent of low oxygen water masses influences dissolved nutrient inventories, as oxygen-sensitive nitrogen (N) loss processes such as denitrification and anammox are enhanced and inorganic phosphorus is remobilized from sediments, resulting in low N:P of upwelled waters, especially in the East Pacific. The present study aimed to investigate the impact of changing N and P supply on the pelagic primary producers and consumers in the photic zone. To achieve this, nutrient manipulation experiments were conducted in the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic Ocean using a newly designed shipboard mesocosm setup. Results demonstrated that in these regions, where N:P is generally below the canonical Redfield ratio of 16, inorganic N is the key control of bulk productivity regardless of the amount of P added, especially of bloom-forming diatom species and ciliate consumers (chapter I and II). However, the response of individual species and pools of organic matter was found to be more complex. For example, Phaeocystis globosa and Heterosigma sp. clearly benefitted from high P-levels (chapter I). Both algal groups are considered of inferior quality to mesozooplankton consumers compared to diatom-dominated assemblages. The observation that the relative content of unsaturated fatty acids in the particulate matter was positively related to diatom biomass (chapter I) is a second clue that decreasing N flux to the surface ocean impacts food web productivity. However, the RNA/DNA ratio, as a proxy for nutritional condition, did not change in the copepod Undinula vulgaris when fed on the manipulated mesocosm community over a period of three days (chapter II). The results of the nutrient manipulation experiments off Peru and West Africa were surprisingly similar, despite the fact that the North Atlantic features excess N at depth due to N2-fixation and the lack of suboxic conditions that would promote N-loss processes. Furthermore, pigments characteristic for cyanobacteria indicated that diazotrophs were increasing in those mesocosms that had received a higher initial N load (chapter I and II), which contradicts the common understanding that diazotrophs would benefit from excess P. In addition, we observed that the N:P excretion ratio of copepods (U. vulgaris) feeding on the manipulated mesocosm assemblage was influenced by the N:P of bulk particulate organic matter (PON:POP), which in turn responded directly to the manipulation ratios (chapter II). In order to survey the natural variability in N and P excretion rates in the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic, measurements were conducted in shipboard incubations at several stations on three epipelagic copepod species (chapter III). Within species, excretion N:P was positively related to PON:POP at the respective station; however, the low number of stations sampled and the variability of PON:POP within the upper 150 m hampered the establishment of a functional relationship. The N:P excretion ratio was consistently higher in the carnivorous Euchaeta marina compared to the omnivorous U. vulgaris and Scolecithrix danae. This can be attributed to the rather rigid N:P stoichiometry of zooplanktonic prey items of E. marina in contrast to the unicellular food items of the other two species (such as diatoms, dinoflagellates and heterotrophic protists) with more variable N:P. A further question addressed in this study was to what extent atmospheric N sources (N2-fixation and dust) are contributing to secondary production in the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic, and how this contribution is related to the vertical flux of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (chapter IV). We used zooplankton stable nitrogen isotopes (15N) to estimate the relative contribution of atmospheric N sources and found that it ranged from less than 20% off the West African coast to 60% in the open ocean (Guinea Dome region), and was positively related to the depth of the nitracline.

Document Type: Thesis (Doctoral thesis/PhD)
Thesis Advisors: Sommer, Ulrich and Winder, Monika
Keywords: phytoplankton; zooplankton; oxygen minimum zone; eastern boundary current system
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EOE-N Experimental Ecology - Food Webs
OceanRep > SFB 754 > B2
OceanRep > SFB 754
OceanRep > SFB 754 > B8
Related URLs:
Projects: SFB754
Expeditions/Models:
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2013 07:48
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2015 12:41
URI: http://eprints.uni-kiel.de/id/eprint/20102

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