Iron enrichment experiments in the Southern Ocean: Physiological responses of plankton communities

M.A. van Leeuwe, R. Scharek, H.J.W. de Baar, J.T.M. de Jong, L. Goeyens

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The physiological responses of plankton to iron enrichment were investigated in experiments performed in 20-l culture vessels. Natural phytoplankton communities in sea water, with mean ambient Fe concentrations ranging from 0.3-0.4 nM in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to 1.2-1.9 nM in the Polar Frontal region, were incubated for several days. Upon addition of 2 nM of iron, synthesis of chlorophyll a and nutrient uptake was stimulated. The specific nitrate-uptake rates as determined by 15N-uptake experiments consistently increased, as well as the ratios of chlorophyll a to particulate carbon. Growth rates in iron-enriched bottles were consequently enhanced relative to control bottles. The biochemical composition of the plankton community, indicated by carbon to nitrogen ratios and fatty acid composition, remained unaffected by iron addition. On the basis of 14C incorporation into the major biochemical pools, no changes were observed in the allocation of carbon into proteins, polysaccharides, lipids and low-molecular-weight metabolites in the particulate fraction. Antarctic phytoplankton endures the low ambient iron concentrations by maintaining physiological processes at lower activity rates, whereas the biochemical composition of the plankton remains virtually unaffected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-207
Number of pages19
JournalDeep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

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