phytoplankton traits and ecological dynamics in the north atlantic ccean

CPR abundance, averaged across all areas and species within taxonomic groups, for diatoms (n=64), heterotrophic (n=12), and mixotrophic dino agellates (n=16), assum- ing that most “autotrophic” dino agellates are likely mixotrophs (3). The shaded error bars indicate two standard errors (+/- 2σ). b) Same data as for a), but normalized by the sum of all three curves.

CPR abundance, averaged across all areas and species within taxonomic groups, for diatoms (n=64), heterotrophic (n=12), and mixotrophic dino agellates (n=16), assum- ing that most “autotrophic” dino agellates are likely mixotrophs (3). The shaded error bars indicate two standard errors (+/- 2σ). b) Same data as for a), but normalized by the sum of all three curves.

Andrew Barton, together with Zoe Finkel (Mt Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada), Ben Ward and Mick Follows have been examining the long-term Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) database on the abundances of diatom and dinoflagellate taxa in the North Atlantic Ocean to quantify the ecological importance to two quite fundamental organism traits: cell size-constrained growth rates and nutrient acquisition strategy (photoautotrophy, heterotrophy, or mixotrophy, i.e., those organisms capable of both). The team are finding that smaller, faster growing diatom taxa outgrow the slower growing diatoms during favorable Spring “bloom” conditions. Dinoflagellate abundance peaks following the diatom bloom, but with mixotrophs having a noticeable competitive advantage over the pure heterotrophs because of their ability to photosynthesize during “bloom” conditions. Analysis of the CPR data shows how the functional traits of marine microbes, such as their size and how they acquire nutrients, mediate the ecological dynamics of marine ecosystems.

Read more in the following papers:

Barton AD, Finkel ZV, Ward BA, and Follows MJ, “The impact of growth rate and
nutrient acquisition strategy on phytoplankton community structure”, in prep.

A.D.Barton , S. Dutkiewicz, G. Flierl, J. Bragg, and M.J. Follows, (2010)
“Response to Comment on ‘Patterns of diversity in marine phytoplankton.’”
Science, 329, 512-d.

A.D.Barton , S. Dutkiewicz, G. Flierl, J. Bragg, and M.J. Follows, (2010)
“Patterns of diversity in marine phytoplankton.” Science, 327, 1509-1511.

and poster:

Gordon Research Conference, Metabolic Basis of Ecology, Biddeford, Maine, USA,
July 18-23, 2010. “Metabolic Basis for Phytoplankton Community Dynamics in
the North Atlantic Ocean”: Barton, A.D., B. Ward, Z. Finkel, and M. Follows.

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poster presentation