Nutrient Limitation in Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM): Phytoplankton Communities and Photosynthesis Respond to Nutrient Pulse
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Although the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River system exports large amounts of nutrients to the Northern Gulf of Mexico annually, nutrient limitation of primary productivity still occurs offshore, acting as one of the major factors controlling local phytoplankton biomass and community structure. Bioassays were conducted for 48 hrs at two stations adjacent to the river plumes in April and August 2012. High Performance of Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) combined with ChemTax and a Fluorescence Induction and Relaxation (FIRe) system were combined to observe changes in the phytoplankton community structure and photosynthetic activity. Major fluorescence parameters (Fo, Fv/Fm) performed well to reveal the stimulating effect of the treatments with nitrogen (N-nitrate) and with nitrogen plus phosphate (+NPi). HPLC/ChemTax results showed that phytoplankton community structure shifted with nitrate addition: we observed an increase in the proportion of diatoms and prasinophytes and a decrease in cyanobacteria and prymnesiophytes. These findings are consistent with predictions from trait-based analysis which predict that phytoplankton groups with high maximum growth rates (μmax) and high nutrient uptake rates (Vmax) readily take advantage of the addition of limiting nutrients. Changes in phytoplankton community structure, if persistent, could trigger changes of particular organic matter fluxes and alter the micro-food web cycles and bottom oxygen consumption.
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