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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-440
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-440
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 08 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 08 Nov 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

A meta-analysis on environmental drivers of marine phytoplankton C : N : P

Tatsuro Tanioka and Katsumi Matsumoto Tatsuro Tanioka and Katsumi Matsumoto
  • Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Abstract. The elemental stoichiometry of marine phytoplankton plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle through carbon export. Although extensive laboratory experiments have been carried out over the years to assess the influence of different environmental drivers on the elemental composition of phytoplankton, a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the processes is still lacking. Here, we synthesized the responses of P : C and N : C ratios of marine phytoplankton to five major drivers (phosphate and nitrate, irradiance, temperature, and iron) by meta-analysis of laboratory experimental data available in the literature. Our results show that the response of the ratios to changes in macronutrients is consistent across all the studies, where the nutrient availability is positively related to changes in P : C and N : C ratios. We found that diatoms are more sensitive to the changes in macronutrients compared to other eukaryotes and cyanobacteria, possibly due to their larger cell size and their abilities to quickly regulate their gene expression patterns required for nutrient uptake. The effect of irradiance on P : C was mixed and not significant, but the same effect on N : C was significant and constant across all studies where an increase in irradiance decreased N : C. The response to temperature changes was mixed by species, except warming consistently decreased P : C ratio in cyanobacteria. This may explain why P : C is consistently low in the cyanobacteria-dominated subtropical oceans. The effect of iron on P : C and N : C for cyanobacteria were statistically significant but the small sample size precludes drawing firm conclusions. Overall, our findings highlight the high stoichiometric plasticity of diatoms and the importance of macronutrients in determining P : C and N : C ratios, which both provide us insights on how to understand and model plankton diversity and productivity.

Tatsuro Tanioka and Katsumi Matsumoto
Interactive discussion
Status: open (until 20 Dec 2019)
Status: open (until 20 Dec 2019)
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Tatsuro Tanioka and Katsumi Matsumoto
Data sets

Supporting Data for Tanioka and Matsumoto (2019) T. Tanioka and K. Matsumoto https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3515471

Model code and software

Supporting Data for Tanioka and Matsumoto (2019) T. Tanioka and K. Matsumoto https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3515471

Tatsuro Tanioka and Katsumi Matsumoto
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Latest update: 16 Nov 2019
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Short summary
Ocean algae produce roughly half of the earth's organic carbon by photosynthesis. The amount of carbon produced for a given amount of essential elements such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) is expressed in terms of the C : N : P ratio. We conducted an extensive literature survey (meta-analysis) on how C : N : P ratio varies with change in key environmental drivers. We found that nutrients are the most important driver and our results suggest that C : N : P is expected to increase in the future.
Ocean algae produce roughly half of the earth's organic carbon by photosynthesis. The amount of...
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