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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Nitrate and ammonium fluxes to diatoms and dinoflagellates at a single cell level in mixed field communities in the sea

Olofsson, Malin; Robertson, Elizabeth K.; Edler, Lars; Arneborg, Lars; Whitehouse, Martin J.; Ploug, Helle


Growth of large phytoplankton is considered to be diffusion limited at low nutrient concentrations, yet their constraints and contributions to carbon (C) and nitrogen fluxes in field plankton communities are poorly quantified under this condition. Using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), we quantified cell-specific assimilation rates of C, nitrate, and ammonium in summer communities of large phytoplankton when dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations are low in temperate coastal regions. Chain-forming diatoms composed 6% of total particulate organic carbon, but contributed 20% of C assimilation, 54% of nitrate assimilation and 32% of ammonium assimilation within the plankton community. In contrast, large dinoflagellates composed 11% of total POC, and contributed 14% of the C assimilation, 4% of ammonium and 9% of nitrate assimilation within the plankton community. Measured cell-specific C and nitrate assimilation rate match the Redfield ratio and the maximal nitrate assimilation in Chaetoceros spp. predicted by mass transfer theory. However, average ammonium assimilation rates were 30 and 340% higher than predicted by mass transfer theory in Tripos/Ceratium and Chaetoceros, respectively, suggesting that microbial interactions in the phycosphere may facilitate substantial luxury ammonium uptake by Chaetoceros in environments with fluctuating nitrate concentrations.

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Scientific Reports
2019, Volume: 9, article number: 1424

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