The carbohydrates of Phaeocystis and their degradation in the microbial food web

Anne-Carlijn Alderkamp*, Anita G. J. Buma, Marion van Rijssel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

The ubiquity and high productivity associated with blooms of colonial Phaeocystis makes it an important contributor to the global carbon cycle. During blooms organic matter that is rich in carbohydrates is produced. We distinguish five different pools of carbohydrates produced by Phaeocystis. Like all plants and algal cells, both solitary and colonial cells produce (1) structural carbohydrates, (hetero) polysaccharides that are mainly part of the cell wall, (2) mono- and oligosaccharides, which are present as intermediates in the synthesis and catabolism of cell components, and (3) intracellular storage glucan. Colonial cells of Phaeocystis excrete (4) mucopolysaccharides, heteropolysaccharides that are the main constituent of the mucous colony matrix and (5) dissolved organic matter (DOM) rich in carbohydrates, which is mainly excreted by colonial cells. In this review the characteristics of these pools are discussed and quantitative data are summarized. During the exponential growth phase, the ratio of carbohydrate-carbon (C) to particulate organic carbon (POC) is approximately 0.1. When nutrients are limited, Phaeocystis blooms reach a stationary growth phase, during which excess energy is stored as carbohydrates. This so-called overflow metabolism increases the ratio of carbohydrate-C to POC to 0.4-0.6 during the stationary phase, leading to an increase in the C/N and C/P ratios of Phaeocystis organic matter. Overflow metabolism can be channeled towards both glucan and mucopolysaccharides. Summarizing the available data reveals that during the stationary phase of a bloom glucan contributes 0-51% to POC, whereas mucopolysaccharides contribute 5-60%. At the end of a bloom, lysis of Phaeocystis cells and deterioration of colonies leads to a massive release of DOM rich in glucan and mucopolysaccharides. Laboratory studies have revealed that this organic matter is potentially readily degradable by heterotrophic bacteria. However, observations in the field of accumulation of DOM and foam indicate that microbial degradation is hampered. The high C/N and C/P ratios of Phaeocystis organic matter may lead to nutrient limitation of microbial degradation, thereby prolonging degradation times. Over time polysaccharides tend to self-assemble into hydrogels. This may have a profound effect on carbon cycling, since hydrogels provide a vehicle to move DOM up the size spectrum to sizes subject to sedimentation. In addition, it changes the physical nature and microscale structure of the organic matter encountered by bacteria which may affect the degradation potential of the Phaeocystis organic matter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-118
Number of pages20
JournalBiogeochemistry
Volume83
Issue number1-3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2007
EventMeeting of the Scientific-Committee on Oceanic Research - , Netherlands
Duration: 30-Aug-20053-Sep-2005

Keywords

  • carbohydrates
  • glucan
  • hydrogels
  • mucilage
  • Phaeocystis
  • TEP
  • DISSOLVED ORGANIC-MATTER
  • DIATOM SKELETONEMA-COSTATUM
  • BELGIAN COASTAL WATERS
  • SOUTHERN-OCEAN PHYTOPLANKTON
  • DOMINATED SPRING BLOOM
  • NORTH-SEA
  • ROSS SEA
  • GLOBOSA PRYMNESIOPHYCEAE
  • POUCHETII HAPTOPHYCEAE
  • MARINE-PHYTOPLANKTON

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