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Controls on tropical Pacific Ocean productivity revealed through nutrient stress diagnostics


Behrenfeld, MJ and Worthington, K and Sherrell, RM and Chavez, FP and Strutton, P and McPhaden, M and Shea, DM, Controls on tropical Pacific Ocean productivity revealed through nutrient stress diagnostics, Nature, 442 pp. 1025-1028. ISSN 0028-0836 (2006) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2006 Nature Publishing Group

DOI: doi:10.1038/nature05083


In situ enrichment experiments have shown that the growth of bloom-forming diatoms in the major high-nitrate low-chlorophyll (HNLC) regions of the world’s oceans is limited by the availability of iron. Yet even the largest of these manipulative experiments represents only a small fraction of an ocean basin, and the responses observed are strongly influenced by the proliferation of rare species rather than the growth of naturally dominant populations. Here we link unique fluorescence attributes of phytoplankton to specific physiological responses to nutrient stress, and use these relationships to evaluate the factors that constrain phytoplankton growth in the tropical Pacific Ocean on an unprecedented spatial scale. On the basis of fluorescence measurements taken over 12 years, we delineate three major ecophysiological regimes in this region. We find that iron has a key function in regulating phytoplankton growth in both HNLC and oligotrophic waters near the Equator and further south, whereas nitrogen and zooplankton grazing are the primary factors that regulate biomass production in the north. Application of our findings to the interpretation of satellite chlorophyll fields shows that productivity in the tropical Pacific basin may be 1.2–2.5 PgCyr-1 lower than previous estimates have suggested, a difference that is comparable to the global change in ocean production that accompanied the largest El Nino to La Nina transition on record.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:phytoplankton, tropical Pacific, nutrient limitation
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Biological oceanography
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences
UTAS Author:Strutton, P (Professor Peter Strutton)
ID Code:138615
Year Published:2006
Web of Science® Times Cited:206
Deposited By:Oceans and Cryosphere
Deposited On:2020-04-18
Last Modified:2020-05-26

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