Biophysical Interactions Control the Size and Abundance of Large Phytoplankton Chains at the Ushant Tidal Front

Type Article
Date 2014-02
Language English
Author(s) Landeira Jose Maria1, Ferron Bruno2, Lunven Michel1, Morin Pascal3, Marie Louis2, Sourisseau Marc1
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, Ctr Brest, Dept Dynam Environm Cotier Pelagos, Plouzane, France.
2 : IFREMER, Ctr Brest, Lab Phys Oceans, CNRS,UMR,IRD,UBO 6523, Plouzane, France.
3 : UPMC, CNRS, UMR 7144, Stn Biol Roscoff, Roscoff, France.
Source Plos One (1932-6203) (Public Library Science), 2014-02 , Vol. 9 , N. 2 , P. -
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0090507
WOS© Times Cited 9
Abstract Phytoplankton blooms are usually dominated by chain-forming diatom species that can alter food pathways from primary producers to predators by reducing the interactions between intermediate trophic levels. The food-web modifications are determined by the length of the chains; however, the estimation is biased because traditional sampling strategies damage the chains and, therefore, change the phytoplankton size structure. Sedimentological studies around oceanic fronts have shown high concentrations of giant diatom mats (>1 cm in length), suggesting that the size of diatom chains is underestimated in the pelagic realm. Here, we investigate the variability in size and abundance of phytoplankton chains at the Ushant tidal front (NW France) using the Video Fluorescence Analyzer (VFA), a novel and non-invasive system. CTD and Scanfish profiling characterized a strong temperature and chlorophyll front, separating mixed coastal waters from the oceanic-stratified domain. In order to elucidate spring-neap variations in the front, vertical microstructure profiler was used to estimate the turbulence and vertical nitrate flux. Key findings were: (1) the VFA system recorded large diatom chains up to 10.7 mm in length; (2) chains were mainly distributed in the frontal region, with maximum values above the pycnocline in coincidence with the maximum chlorophyll; (3) the diapycnal fluxes of nitrate enabled the maintenance of the bloom in the frontal area throughout the spring-neap tidal cycle; (4) from spring to neap tide the chains length was significantly reduced; (5) during neap tide, the less intense vertical diffusion of nutrients, as well as the lower turbulence around the chains, intensified nutrient-depleted conditions and, thus, very large chains became disadvantageous. To explain this pattern, we suggest that size plasticity is an important ecological trait driving phytoplankton species competition. Although this plasticity behavior is well known from experiments in the laboratory, it has never been reported from observations in the field.
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