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

Tanioka, Tatsuro; Matsumoto, Katsumi

The elemental stoichiometry of marine phytoplankton plays a critical role in global biogeochemical cycles through its impact on nutrient cycling, secondary production, and 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 inline-formulaP:C and inline-formulaN:C ratios of marine phytoplankton to five major drivers (inorganic phosphorus, inorganic nitrogen, inorganic iron, irradiance, and temperature) by a meta-analysis of experimental data across 366 experiments from 104 journal articles. Our results show that the response of these ratios to changes in macronutrients is consistent across all the studies, where the increase in nutrient availability is positively related to changes in inline-formulaP:C and inline-formulaN:C ratios. We found that eukaryotic phytoplankton are more sensitive to the changes in macronutrients compared to prokaryotes, possibly due to their larger cell size and their abilities to regulate their gene expression patterns quickly. The effect of irradiance was significant and constant across all studies, where an increase in irradiance decreased both inline-formulaP:C and inline-formulaN:C. The inline-formulaP:C ratio decreased significantly with warming, but the response to temperature changes was mixed depending on the culture growth mode and the growth phase at the time of harvest. Along with other oceanographic conditions of the subtropical gyres (e.g., low macronutrient availability), the elevated temperature may explain why inline-formulaP:C is consistently low in subtropical oceans. Iron addition did not systematically change either inline-formulaP:C or inline-formulaN:C. Overall, our findings highlight the high stoichiometric plasticity of eukaryotes and the importance of macronutrients in determining inline-formulaP:C and inline-formulaN:C ratios, which both provide us insights on how to understand and model plankton diversity and productivity.



Tanioka, Tatsuro / Matsumoto, Katsumi: A meta-analysis on environmental drivers of marine phytoplankton C : N : P. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


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