Effect of atmospheric nutrients on the autotrophic communities in a low nutrient, low chlorophyll system

Sophie Bonnet, Cécile Guieu, Jacques Chiaverini, Joséphine Ras, Agnès Stock

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The effect of atmospheric inputs on phytoplanktonic dynamics was investigated in the Mediterranean Sea during the season characterized by a stratified water column, low primary productivity, and low concentrations of nutrients ([nitrate] < 50 nmol L-1; [phosphate] = 20 nmol L -1; [silicate] = 0.7 μmol L-1). We report here data obtained during microcosm enrichment experiments performed on the natural assemblage using different combinations of realistic additions (Saharan dust, Fe, Fe + phosphate, and anthropogenic particles). Saharan dust and Fe + phosphate treatments significantly stimulated primary production. Anthropogenic particles and Fe + phosphate treatments increased the chlorophyll a concentrations, enhancing mainly the small cells (pico- and nanophytoplankton). The autotrophic community structure was significantly altered; for example, Fe and Fe + phosphate additions benefited prokaryotic populations, indicating possible nitrogen fixation. The colimitation of both phosphate and Fe was removed by these additions. Results emphasized the effect of Fe, although the ambient concentration was close to 1 nmol L-1. The addition of dust benefited eukaryotic populations, which indicates that the dust was a possible source of nitrogen. An abiotic dissolution experiment of macronutrients attached to dust confirmed this hypothesis. The dissolution of Fe attached to the dust (0.23-0.61%) and to the anthropogenic particles (0.86-1.85%) was consistent with previous studies conducted under abiotic conditions. This result suggests that the possible enhancement of the dissolution processes caused by biological activity might have been balanced by Fe consumption by the biota and its adsorption on both mineral and organic particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1810-1819
Number of pages10
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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